Dog Bite Laws in New York: Rights and Remedies for Victims

Owning a pet, especially one as involved in your life as a dog, is often one of life’s great pleasures and responsibilities. But if you’ve been bitten by one in New York, you may be wondering whether the state’s dog-bite laws protect you. 

The answer is probably yes, but that’s not always the case. New York’s dog-bite laws are somewhat unusual and can be confusing. Here’s everything you need to know:

Liability and Negligence

New York’s dog-bite laws are composed of three elements that may appear to conflict with one another. 

First is the strict liability rule, which says that an owner is automatically responsible for their dog’s actions. However, the second element — the negligence rule — states that an owner, walker, or pet sitter is only responsible if they did not take reasonable care to keep the animal under control. Lastly, there is the “one-bite law,” which may exempt an owner from responsibility if they had no prior evidence to believe their dog could be dangerous. 

At first glance, these laws may seem confusing, but there are good reasons behind the presence of potential exceptions. If a dog is defending its home against an intruder or is provoked by a stranger, the negligence or one-bite rules are likely to come into play. 

Other reasons an owner might be exempt from responsibility include the following:

  • The bite victim intervened in a dog fight unprompted
  • The bite victim was warned not to approach or pet the dog beforehand
  • The bite victim accidentally harmed the dog, perhaps by stepping on its tail
  • The dog was sick or injured

In cases like these, a court may find that the owner did, in fact, take reasonable care and that it was either the actions of the victim or the animal’s unpredictable reaction that caused the attack.

When Dog-Bite Laws Support a Lawsuit

In some dog bite cases, the dog’s owner may be charged with a misdemeanor. If the owner was negligent or the dog had previously been proven dangerous, a charge may follow. 

The New York dog-bite statute defines a dangerous dog in one of two ways:

  • One that behaves in ways that would make a reasonable person believe the animal poses a threat
  • One that injures or kills a person with no justifiable reason

Severe injuries may also warrant a misdemeanor charge and require the dog’s owner to pay for medical or veterinary costs.

New York also upholds a landlord liability law that may hold a landlord responsible for injuries that occur from any dog on the landlord’s property. To be successful, you must prove that the landlord knew the dog was dangerous and allowed it to remain on the premises.

What to Do if You Are Bitten by a Dog in New York

The first thing to do if a dog bites you is to safeguard your health. Wash the wound with soap and water and get medical attention, even if you’re not certain you need it. You could have abrasions, puncture wounds, and lacerations that you don’t notice right away. 

Additionally, around 20% of all dog bites result in some type of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Rabies, tetanus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are additional concerns. Clear documentation about the medical services you receive can be crucial evidence in a lawsuit. 

Next, consult with a personal injury attorney. Working with an attorney is the best way to navigate the legal system. 

Protect Your Rights 

If you’ve suffered injuries because of a dog owner’s neglect, you may be entitled to compensation for any medical bills and pain and suffering you face. Contact an attorney experienced with New York dog-bite laws. Taking legal action may be the best way to prevent others from being harmed.