Generally, the pet must be the property of the store owner in order for the owner to assume liability for personal injury. However, some states include "dog bite" statutes that hold business owners responsible for injuries caused by any on-site pets. Also, a business owner can be held liable if they were negligent in providing adequate safety precautions against animal attacks.
What Needs to Be Shown in Order to Prove a Business Owner was Negligent?
In order to prove that a business owner was negligent, a court is likely to look into the following factors:
- Did the business owner see the pet's demeanor: Courts are reluctant to force a business owner to inspect every pet that enters his or her store. This is even more the case when the business owner doesn't know the pet is there in the first place.
- Did the business owner know or have reason to know that the pet itself was dangerous: For example, a person is less likely to expect a violent animal attack from a baby Chihuahua as opposed to a hundred pound Pit Bull.
- Once a dangerous pet is identified, did the business owner take reasonable precautions to remove the pet or prevent danger to other patrons: Courts are more likely to find store owners negligent for dangers they know about and can actually help prevent.
- Was the injured person in a restricted area of the store: Store owners are generally not held responsible for customer injuries that occur in non-retail or "off-limit" areas of the store.
- Nature of the store or business itself: A court is likely to require more care against animal attacks from an animal supply store that expects a large volume of pets, as opposed to a local grocery shop.
How Can an Attorney Help Me?
If you were injured by another customer?s pet while in a store or other place of business, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately to assert your rights. An experienced lawyer can help determine whether the store owner was negligent in protecting your safety, and clue you in on any other possible claims you may have against the pet owner and other persons.