Rottweiler and Pit Bull Laws

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 Where Can I Own a Rottweiler or Pit Bull?

The answer to this question hinges on the city in which you live. Although no states have banned Rottweilers or pit bulls, many cities and towns do. For instance, the city of Santa Monica in California has outlawed pit bulls, and Walkerton, Indiana, has banned Rottweilers.

Other places such as Westfield, Illinois and Jacksonville, Lonoke, North Little Rock, and Beebe, Arkansas, have prohibited Dobermans. These types of restrictive laws are called Breed Specific Legislation. Refer to this list of breed-specific legislation ban cities.

Is a Pet Owner Liable for Injuries and Damage Caused by Their Pets?

Pets are the personal property of the owner. This means that their owners can be personally liable for any injuries they inflict on others or anyone’s property. Generally, people think of animal injuries associated with a dog (dog bites).

Still, any injury or property damage caused by your pet, whether the pet is a dog, cat, snake, rabbit, bird, etc., can expose you to liability.

In most states, the liability of a pet owner, particularly a dog owner, is established by statute.

How Can I Avoid Lawsuits Concerning My Rottweiler or Pitbull?

The best way to avoid a negligence suit for a dog attack, or a wrongful death involving a dog attack, is to take all appropriate steps to defend against such attacks. This list is designed to counter the “breach” element of a negligence lawsuit; i.e., the plaintiff cannot establish that you were careless in allowing your dog to attack.

These steps include, but are not limited to:

  • Keep your dog muzzled when out in public
  • Spay or neuter your dog
  • Avoid bringing your dog to places where you know young kids or infants will be present
  • Avoid getting your dog into untested situations; this includes walks into unknown streets or inviting a guest over that your dog has never met before
  • Always carry a “big stick” to unlock your dog’s jaw in case your dog does attack someone
  • Do not walk the dog unless you are certain you can control your dog;
  • Do not allow minors, including teenagers, to walk these powerful dogs
  • Follow any ordinances and laws your city may have to restrict your dog

If I Am Sued In a Matter Concerning My Pit-Bull or Rottweiler, What Should I Avoid Doing?

Although a lawsuit can be stressful, a couple of things can make a case worse. If you know your dog’s specific breed, do not lie, deceive, or otherwise mislead victims, police, attorneys, or the court about your dog’s breed.

Avoid making any commitments about whose fault it was immediately after the attack. Many dog owners blame the victim after an incident, but blaming the victim after the dog has ripped out the victim’s right eye will only make the jury believe that the owner cares more about the dog than the injured people.

Can a City or Town Ban Specific Breeds of Pits?

Federal and state courts have supported the constitutionality of laws restricting or banning the ownership of specific breeds of dogs. Most challenges to specific breed laws have been over the ambiguity of the laws and the use of police powers to enforce such laws.

Such laws are upheld because most dog owners can identify their dog’s breed, and experts have testified that the breeds targeted for restrictions have identifiable traits that police can recognize. Police are authorized to enforce these laws because pit bulls and Rottweilers are considered more dangerous than the average dog due to these specific breeds’ powerful jaws and instinct not to let go of their victims.

What’s the Liability of a Dog Owner?

Dog bite liability hinges largely on what state, and even which city or county, where you reside. States such as California, Florida, and Massachusetts expose any dog owner to liability for the dog’s conduct. These are known as strict liability states, where the dog owner is strictly liable for their dog’s conduct.

There are exceptions when you aren’t liable for your dog’s conduct. If the victim is a criminal and was bitten in the commission of a felony (such as robbing a bank), you would not be liable if the victim provoked the dog. Also, you would not be liable to a trespasser on your property who your dog bites.

Like New York, Texas, and Oregon, other states only hold the owner liable if the owner had reason to know or should have known the dog had aggressive propensities.

How Can Animal Owners Protect Themselves from Liability?

As a pet owner, to protect yourself from liability, you can do a couple of things.

First, consider obtaining homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, especially if you live in a state where you are considered responsible for your dog’s attacks unless there are extraneous circumstances. Check your policy to see whether dog bites on your property are covered. Some insurance companies do not cover animals or certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, considered more dangerous and aggressive dogs.

Second, knowledge is power. Look into your state, county, and city’s ordinance regarding dog ownership. Some states have “strict liability” statutes, as mentioned above. These statutes make you legally responsible for any injuries your dog inflicts because you are the animal’s owner.

Can Veterinarians Sue Pet Owners for their Injuries?

Typically, veterinarians cannot sue pet owners if the pet bites during a vet visit. Veterinarians assume a certain amount of risk when working with any animal in their profession. Further, a veterinarian’s job sometimes is to poke and prod an animal, which often leads to an involuntary reaction by the animal. Finally, some courts hold that veterinarians become their temporary owners after they receive custody of the dog, thereby removing the owner’s liability when the pet is in the vet’s care.

There are a couple of exceptions. An owner can still be liable if the pet is unusually ill-tempered and the owner does not warn the veterinarian. Additionally, a vet’s employees can sue the vet if their employer fails to properly protect her employees from unnecessary risks posed by the animal.

Can I Fly With My Dog?

The answer to this question depends on which airline you are flying and what sort of dog you have. Many airlines have restrictions on the breeds they will allow on board their planes.

For example, Continental Airlines does not accept pit bulls, and American Airlines does not accept Dobermans, Rottweilers, Bull Terriers, and others. Check with the specific airline you wish to fly with to see their dog policies.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Dog Issue?

If you have a restricted dog, you may be subject to serious liability if your dog is discovered or if it bites someone. If you consider getting a dog that you fear may be restricted in your area, you may wish to consult with an experienced dog bite attorney.

A personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether you can keep the dog in your city and what kind of liability you may be exposed to. Use LegalMatch to start resolving your dog issue today.

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