Every year, millions of people in the United States are bitten by dogs. The majority of those dog bite injury victims are small children, and one in five will need to seek medical attention for the bite. While it’s sad and tragic that small children are injured because of a dog, the incident can turn into a money and energy-draining lawsuit for the dog’s owner. If you own a dog in the Houston, Texas area, you need to know about dog bite laws and how you can stay compliant. Knowledge of how dog bite laws work and how you can protect yourself from a lawsuit will help you to enjoy dog ownership fully.
What causes a dog to bite?
Every dog has its own unique personality. Dogs also have excellent memories. Many factors can increase a dog’s risk of biting. Some dog breeds are more aggressive than others, and some dogs may have experienced abuse in the past that makes them insecure and fearful, and therefore, more likely to bite. A dog that is afraid, or otherwise agitated is more likely to defend itself from a perceived threat. Provoking a dog will also increase the chances of it biting. The reality is, your dog has no other way of defending itself other than biting or running away. If it can’t escape from a provocation, it will bite to protect itself. It’s vital that you properly train your dog, and have a good understanding of its personality and history. Also, there are many steps you can take to protect your dog from being provoked.
What precautions do dog owners need to take to minimize their liability?
Many cities and counties have what are called ‘leash laws.’ Houston has one such leash law. In the Houston area, dogs and cats are not allowed to roam ‘at-large.’ What this means is that Houston dog owners must have their dog either on a leash while on public property, or the dog must be kept in an enclosed area where they cannot escape if they are on private property.
If you own a dog in Houston, make sure that your property is enclosed with a sturdy fencing mechanism. This will keep you and your dog compliant with the dog bite laws in Houston and also keep your dog safe from cars, aggressive animals, and people who may tease, provoke, or scare your pet.
If your dog is found running at large, it will be impounded. If the dog is licensed with the city of Houston, the owner will be notified that the dog has been seized. Owners have six days to get their dog.
How is liability determined if a dog bites someone?
Liability is determined depending on the circumstances, and the area in which the dog injured someone. Most states have what is called dog bite statutes, but Texas and Houston operate under ‘one bite laws.’
The one-bite law allows a dog bite victim to recover compensation from an owner or the keeper of the dog under the following circumstances:
- The dog bit someone before or was otherwise aggressive with people
- The dog owner or handler knew the dog was aggressive
Under the one bite law, a dog that is known to be aggressive is termed to have ‘vicious propensities.’ Both of the above conditions must be met for the dog bite victim to recover compensation for their injury. In essence, dogs in Texas get to bite someone once for free. After that, the owner is liable for damages. If a dog bite victim was bitten by a dog that never bit anyone or acted aggressively with people before, it’s almost impossible to recover damages in Texas. Also, dog bite victims have to file a complaint within two years after the injury occurred.
Dog owner’s in Houston can defend themselves from a lawsuit if they can prove comparative negligence. This means that the dog bite victim was also responsible in some fashion for being bitten. If the jury finds that the victim teased or provoked the animal, the lawsuit may be dismissed, or the victim’s damages will be significantly reduced.
If your dog has bitten someone in the Houston area, it’s crucial that you get a skilled attorney to defend you from a lawsuit. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced, Houston dog bite injury lawyer, if a complaint has been filed against your dog.