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Does New York Have a One-Bite Rule?

dog Pound

Dog ownership brings immense joy and companionship. However, even the most beloved canine can inflict serious injuries through a bite. In the aftermath of a dog attack, navigating the legal landscape can feel overwhelming. In this blog, we discuss dog bite laws specific to New York State, with a particular focus on the "one-bite rule."

Understanding New York's One-Bite Rule

New York dog bite law follows a principle known as the "one-bite rule." This rule comes into play when determining an owner's liability for their dog's aggressive behavior. In essence, the one-bite rule suggests that a dog owner is generally not liable for their dog's first bite unless they had prior knowledge of the dog's vicious tendencies. This can be a complex concept, and it's important to understand the nuances to determine how it might apply to your specific situation.

The crux of the one-bite rule hinges on the owner's awareness of their dog's potential for violence. This awareness typically stems from documented past incidents where the dog exhibited aggressive behavior, such as biting or threatening to bite another person.

One-Bite Rule & Strict Liability

It is important to note that the New York dog bite law isn't solely based on the one-bite rule. There are situations where owners can be held strictly liable, regardless of prior bites. This applies specifically to dogs that have been declared "dangerous" by a court due to previous severe attacks.

Owner's Duty of Care & Liability

Dog owners in New York have a duty of care to ensure their pets do not pose a danger to others. This duty involves taking reasonable precautions, such as socialization and behavior training, to prevent aggressive behavior. Training programs can help dogs learn to interact safely with people and other animals, reducing the risk of bites. Socialization, especially at a young age, can also play a crucial role in mitigating aggressive tendencies.

Owners should be aware that failing to take these preventative measures could result in legal consequences if their dog bites someone. Preventative measures extend beyond training and socialization. Owners should also ensure their dogs are securely confined when necessary, whether through fencing or leashes.

Regular veterinary check-ups can also allow owners to understand and address health issues that might contribute to aggressive behavior. Owners should also work to understand the specific needs and characteristics of the breed, which can guide owners in providing the best care. By taking these steps, dog owners not only fulfill their legal responsibilities but also contribute to a safer community.

In New York, dog owners are liable for bites in the following instances:

  • Previous knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness. If the owner knew or should have known about the dog's vicious propensities, they can be held responsible for injuries related to the dog bite/attack. This knowledge can be demonstrated through previous incidents, complaints, or even the dog's behavior. Exceptions to this rule include situations where the victim provoked the dog or was trespassing on the owner's property. These special circumstances can complicate liability, making it essential for both owners and victims to understand their legal standing.
  • Failure to control the dog. Dog owners can also be held liable for a dog bite or attack if they do not control a dog that they know to be dangerous.
  • Violating local laws. If an owner’s failure to adhere to local animal control laws leads to an injury/attack, they can also be held liable.

Dangerous Dog Law | Important Legal Definitions

New York Agriculture & Market § 123 provides the legal framework for what is considered a dangerous dog. A dog can be deemed dangerous under two circumstances:

  1. Incidents involving an actual attack or injury. A dog that, without justification, inflicts one of the following:
    • Physical injury. This can range from minor scratches to serious bodily harm.
    • Death. This includes causing the death of a person, companion animal (pet), farm animal, or domestic animal.
  2. Incidents involving a threat of serious injury. A dog's behavior that a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unwarranted imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to:
    • People. This applies to anyone in a place where they have a legal right to be, such as a public sidewalk or park.
    • Companion animals. This includes pets like cats and dogs.
    • Farm animals. This includes livestock such as cows, sheep, and horses.
    • Domestic animals. This refers to tamed animals kept for non-commercial purposes, like pet rabbits or chickens.

Anyone who witnesses an attack or threatened attack can file a complaint with a dog control officer or police officer. In the case of a minor being attacked, an adult acting on their behalf can file the complaint. Whoever files a report against a dog after one of the aforementioned incidents must prove (during a hearing) has the burden of proof.

Should the court deem a dog dangerous, the dog will be neutered or spayed, microchipped, and (depending on the case specifics) must submit to one or more of the following conditions:

  • An evaluation by a certified behaviorist
  • Confinement (that is secure and humane and that does not include lengthy periods of chaining or tying) for a certain amount of time
  • Restraint whenever on public premises by an adult aged 21 or older
  • Muzzling whenever on public premises

The dog owner may also be required to obtain liability insurance in an amount dictated by the court. In severe cases, the court may order the dog to be permanently candied or euthanized.

It is important to note that owners can contest the court’s ruling if the dog is found to be dangerous. They can also work to appeal certain orders like euthanasia.

Terms like "vicious propensities" and "reasonable care" are also pivotal in these legal texts. Vicious propensities refer to a dog's tendency to act in a way that could cause harm, while reasonable care involves the measures an average person would take to prevent their dog from causing injury.

Proving Owner's Knowledge

Proving that the owner knew or should have known about their dog's aggressive tendencies is often a key element in dog bite cases. This can be demonstrated through various forms of evidence, such as:

  • previous complaints,
  • incident reports, and
  • witness statements.

The importance of witnesses and documentation cannot be overstated. Witnesses can provide valuable testimony about the dog's behavior and the circumstances of the incident.

Documentation, such as animal control records and veterinary reports, can offer additional insights into the dog's history and the owner's actions. By gathering and presenting this evidence, you can build a compelling case that demonstrates the owner's knowledge and responsibility.

Experienced Counsel | Get Help with Your Dog Bite Claim

If you find yourself in need of legal counsel, the team at the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli is backed by nearly 30 years of legal experience. From helping with evidence collection to determining liability, calculating your damages, and offering you personalized counsel, our attorney is known for being aggressive and attentive, and when you retain our services, you can trust that your case is in good hands.

Get the legal counsel you need. Call (516) 628-6402 to discuss your case with our team.

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