When Man’s Best Friend Turns Dangerous
Man’s best friend isn’t always a cuddly bundle of love. Unfortunately, some dogs, often through maltreatment or negligence on the part of the part of owners, become dangerous. When that happens, it’s important to realize that any owners can be held liable for injuries caused by these dogs and other animals deemed dangerous by the Texas Dangerous Dog Act.
First, some definitions. A dangerous dog is defined by state law as one that:
- Makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury, and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its’ own: or
- (B) Commits unprovoked acts in a place other than an enclosure which the dog was being kept and that reasonably certain to prevent the dogs from leaving the enclosure on its’ own and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to a person.
The state imposes the following requirements on owners to protect communities from harm. Within 30 days of discovering that a person owns a dangerous dog, the person shall either surrender their dog to the local Animal Control Authority OR:
- Register the dog annually as a Dangerous Dog with the local Animal Control Authority and pay a registration fee ($50.00).
- Restrain the dog at all times on a leash in the immediate control of a person or in secure enclosure.
- Obtain liability insurance coverage or show financial responsibility in an amount of at least $100,000 to cover damages resulting from an attack by the dangerous dog causing bodily injury to a person.
- Submit proof of the dog’s current rabies vaccination.
- Attach the issued dangerous dog tag to the dog’s collar or harness and insure that the tag is worn at all times.
- Inform the local Animal Control Authority if the dangerous dog is sold or moved to a new address within 14 days of the sale or move of the dog. The new owner of the dangerous dog can register the dog by presenting the prior registration and remitting a $25.00 fee to the Animal Control Authority.
- Inform the Animal Control Authority office of any attacks on people by the dangerous dog.
An individual can be held criminally liable if their dog causes significant injury or even death to another person. In that case, a court may actually order the dog destroyed. The individual dog owner may also be liable for a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
A person commits an offense if the person is the owner of a dangerous dog and the dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person outside the dog’s enclosure and causes bodily injury to the other person. Under this section of the law, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor, unless the attack causes serious bodily injury or death, in which event the offense is a Class A misdemeanor.
Dog bites can occur with any breed and any sized dog. Many attacks are the result of an owner’s negligence. If that’s the case, So, what should you do if attacked by a dangerous dog? If your injuries are significant, seek treatment immediately. Keep track of medical records to ensure that you have accurate records for the insurance company should they be requested.
Report the incident to local animal control authorities. In Texas, as outlined above, there are policies in place to protect local communities from dangerous dogs, but these policies also rely on community participation and reporting. Reporting your injury helps animal control protect others in the community, especially children. It’s possible (in some cases even probable) that yours is not the first injury caused by the animal.
A qualified personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a case and help you seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and even disfigurement. It’s unlikely that you’ll have an idea of how much could be recovered without an opinion from a personal injury attorney. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and consultation.