Recent reports of attacks by vicious dogs highlight a misconception of many pet owners that if their pet has no history of biting they will not be responsible if it ever does occur. This is often referred to as the “one free bite rule”. The “one free bite rule” is short for the legal theory that you as a dog owner will not be responsible for actions of your pet if you had no notice of the pet’s vicious nature.
The “one free bite rule” can only provide some assistance to the pet owner, and is not a bar to bringing a claim if a person has been attacked; there are many exceptions and an experienced lawyer can often find an exception. One of the exceptions is that a pet owner is always required to use reasonable care in handling his dog. As an example, it may not be reasonable to let your dog play with very young children if there are no young children in your household and the dog is not used to interacting with young children. It also may be unreasonable to let a young household guest play rough with your dog. In addition a pet owner is going to be held to a standard that requires them to take action to terminate any aggression by your dog.
Some Courts have considered a few dog breeds as inherently aggressive, putting the owner on notice of its natural tendency to be violent. Many dog owners dispute that their favorite breed is genetically bred to be vicious. However, a jury is more likely to award damages when the attack is committed by a pit bull in comparison to a small lap dog, and insurance companies are less prone to litigate and more likely to resolve a claim when an attack is committed by a breed with a reputation for aggression.
Dogs can be wonderful pets; however, not every dog is fit to be around children or house guests. Any dog attack needs to be treated seriously, and bites can become infected and leave permanent scarring.