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Peter Sellers: “Does your dog bite?” Man at counter, “No.” Dog bites. Peter Sellers: “I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite?” Man: “That is not my dog.”

January 18th, 2011 1 comment

There seems to be a population explosion of dogs on Long Island.  Walk around Manhasset and you will see or hear a dog in practically every home.   For all you dog owners out there, should you be concerned if Rover is not on his best behavior when the mailman or kids walk by?  Absolutely.  

In New York, a plaintiff injured by a dog bite can recover damages against the dog owner under a theory of strict liability if the plaintiff can prove that the dog had vicious propensities and that the owner of the dog, or person in control of the premises where the dog was [kept], knew or should have known of such propensities.   The proof is generally made by the testimony of the injured party or a neighbor stating that the dog had bitten somebody in the past or that the dog had previously exhibited viscious or menacing behavior.  

Many dog owners could be subjecting themselves to personal exposure as some insurance companies are exempting coverage on a homeowners’ policy for losses caused by certain breeds of dogs.  

A landlord can be liable for a tenant’s dog if the landlord had notice that a dog was being harbored on the premises, and that the landlord knew or should have known that the dog had vicious propensities.

In addtiion to civil liability exposure, the owner of a dog who has bitten a person can be subject to penalties and controls pursuant to New York State Agricultural and Markets Law.  The penalties on the owner of a dog who has attacked can range from a fine to the possibility of one year in jail.  A hearing can be held in court to determine whether the dog is a “dangerous dog.” Finding a dog “dangerous” allows the court to force the owners to take action to attempt to make sure the dog interacts safely with others, including: requesting that the dog to be leashed or muzzled at all times in a public area; requesting the owners to confine the pet (by fencing it, etc.) for a specific amount of time; having the dog trained and possibly putting the dog down or permanently confining the dog.

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