by Adopt a Pet, | January 8, 2024
Sixteen states currently have the one-bite rule: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York*, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota**, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming. The one-bite rule states that a dog’s owner will only be liable for injuries caused by the dog if the owner knew the pet had aggressive tendencies. It’s sometimes called the one-free-bite rule.
The one-bite rule was once standard throughout the country. Over time, however, many states have amended their laws to state that the owner is fully responsible even if their dog had never shown signs of aggression in the past.
The list above is accurate as of this writing, but laws are always changing so you should verify the current law in your state.
If you do not live in one of the states listed above, then you are under strict liability laws governing dog bites. This means that if your pet bites another person or pet, you can be held both criminally and civilly responsible even though there was no reason for you to think the dog was aggressive.
As with any law, how it is applied depends on your state and the circumstances surrounding the bite. Also, if the plaintiff can be showed to have provoked the dog, this can negate the owner’s liability.
Since there are so many variations in these laws, it’s important to learn the specifics of the laws in your state.
*If you live in New York, the one-bite rule applies to criminal charges, but you can still be held responsible in a civil court.
**South Dakota, the one-bite rule applies unless the dog was running at large or the owner had not kept reasonable control over the pet.