Holding Owners Accountable for Dog Bites

Dog Bite Injury Lawyers in Buffalo

Holding Owners Accountable for Dog Bite InjuriesThe Center for Disease Control estimates that almost five million people are bitten every year by a dog. A dog owner is responsible for the aggressiveness of their dog if it can be shown that the dog had a prior propensity for aggressive behavior.  Other factors must be considered – such as whether the owner has violated an ordinance (i.e. leash law) and that violation was a cause of the injury.

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This law is not absolute. If the owner has knowledge of a dog’s “vicious propensity” then they also may be held liable. A dog may be determined to have a vicious propensity, if it:

  • Lunges at passersby, snarling and growling,
  • Has attempted to bite or nip previously, even if it didn’t result in an actual bite,
  • The owner advertises the dog is vicious by way of “attack dog” signs, or verbally bragging to others that his dog is a biter.

In addition, landlords may also be liable if they had notice, or should have known of, the dangerous nature of their renter’s dogs.

Our injury lawyers in Buffalo diligently investigate the existence of responsible owners or landlords. Information regarding the dog is also critical. Dog Control Office records and Department of Health records keep track of recorded dog bites. Often, neighbors of the offending dog can help with critical information.

Attacked by a Dog

Attacked by a DogIn a situation where a dog is loose and encounters a person – knocking them down, biting. or otherwise causing an injury because of the attack, the first thing to do is to seek medical attention. The hospital is going to ask you at that first visit if the dog that bit you had up-to-date shots, specifically rabies and distemper. If you are injured, but can gather information at the scene, get whatever information you can about the dog and its owner.  The owner of the dog can be held responsible for dog bites if it can be shown that the dog had a propensity for certain behaviors, and that propensity can be demonstrated in a variety of different ways.


  • If you were attacked by a dog who was not leashed because of the owner’s negligence or carelessness, especially if the dog had a propensity for certain behaviors, the owner can be held liable.

One-Bite Rule

One-Bite RuleNew York State has very specific laws regarding liability in . New York State has what is often referred to as the one bite rule.

What that essentially means is that a dog owner cannot be held responsible for it biting a human unless it has bitten someone before. Now that law on itself, it’s not fixed. The courts also say, if you can prove to a meaningful extent that the dog had vicious propensities and the owner knew of them. Then they should have been more careful regarding that dog’s interactions with other people. So, some of the examples of this can be dog warning signs, beware of the dog, or when the dog wears a muzzle when it is out for a walk.

Those are indications that the owners already have or had concerns regarding the temperament or behavior of that dog. One of the things that we do right away is try and contact any neighbors of the dog owner, or any other neighbors in the neighborhood.  It frequently is very helpful to us because we find people who have been chased by that same dog and who understand that their children have either not been able to go in the yard or hop over the fence to get a ball.


  • Because of New York state’s one-bite rule, an owner cannot be held responsible unless the dog has bitten somebody before.

Dog Bites From A Dog You Were Petting

Bitten by a Dog You Were PettingPetting a dog prior to that dog attacking or biting you will not preclude your right to bring a claim against the dog’s owner. If that dog has a dangerous propensity, the owner is required to advise you to stay away – even if that owner is not there at the time.

New York State has a strict liability statute which states that one need not prove negligence on the part of a dog owner if that dog was known to have had a dangerous propensity in the first place. The fact that you were involved in some type of friendly interaction with the dog prior to its attacking you does not affect your ability to bring a claim.


  • If a dog you are petting bites you, the owner is held liable because it was his/her responsibility to warn you if the dog was given to hostile behaviors towards strangers petting him/her.

 If you or a loved one have been victims of dog bites, call  the experienced injury lawyers in Buffalo,  Andrews, Bernstein, Maranto & Nicotra.  For further guidance, check out the Hand Guide to Dog Bite Injuries in New York by Attorney Robert Maranto.

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