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New York's tame dog law

Sometimes, a dog may harm people and other animals. New York provides limited relief for victims suffering injuries from a dog attack.

New York law requires dog owners to pay for the medical treatment for bites inflicted by their dogs. A dog is dangerous if it makes an unjustified attack on people or other animals causing death or injury. This law also applies when the dog attacks hearing, service and guide dogs without justification.

In order to make a case against the dog owner, the victim must show that the owner knew of the dog's vicious propensities to act in a manner that endangers a person's safety or property. This does not necessarily mean that the dog attacked anyone but the owner was aware of the dog growling, baring its teeth or snapping at people and that it had to be restrained.

This law also governs property owners with guard dogs. Ownership of these dogs does not necessarily mean knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities, even if the dog barks at people or was confined or chained. However, owning an animal who did not display this behavior does not shield owners from liability. For example, an owner of a dog who jumps on people is liable for injuries if the dog injures someone by jumping on them.

A recent New York appellate case illustrates the flaws in its 200-year-old law. A dog owner tied his golden retriever to a bike rack that was not securely fastened to the sidewalk. The dog was scared and ran down the street with the rack behind it and hid under a car.

The plaintiff approached the dog to free it but it ran off. However, the plaintiff fractured one of his legs after the rack the dog was tied to hit him and propelled him into the air when the dog ran.

Although the dog owner acted negligently by tying the dog to this unsecure rack, the court ruled the state law does not allow a negligence lawsuit when pets cause injuries because the law requires proof that the dog showed a vicious propensity.

A dog bite victim, however, may have options to seek relief for their injuries. If you have been bitten or injured by a dog, an attorney can help seek compensation and pursue reasonable legal remedies.

Source: Times Square Chronicles, "Should New York Dog Owners Face More Liability?," April 12, 2017

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Michael J. Gaffney, Attorney at Law
1164 Victory Blvd.
Staten Island, NY 10301

Phone: 347-286-1937
Fax: 718-447-9908
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