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New York Dog Bite

Bitten by a Dog in New York


In New York, in order to recover damages for a dog bite the law requires that the owner of the dog either knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensities prior to the attack.

Once such knowledge of the dog’s prior vicious propensities is established, an owner faces strict liability for the harm the dog causes as a result of those vicious propensities.

The law recognizes that there are circumstances where, although a dog has not yet bitten anyone, its vicious nature is still apparent.
The owner of the dog is not entitled to an automatic “one free bite” as many believe.

The law recognizes that there are circumstances where, although a dog has not yet bitten anyone, its vicious nature is still apparent.  Under those circumstances, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for the harm the dog causes, even if the dog’s owner was successful in the past in keeping the dog confined or restrained.

Therefore, the mere fact that a dog with known prior vicious propensities never bite anyone in the past does not insulate the dog owner from liability.

The vicious propensities of a dog, which will result in the animal owner’s liability if the animal causes harm as a result of those propensities, include the propensity to do any act that might endanger the safety of the persons and property of others in a given situation.

When such a proclivity by the dog results in an injury to a person, the owner may be found liable.
The owner’s knowledge of a dog’s prior vicious propensities may be established by proof of prior acts of a similar kind by the dog of which the owner knew or should have been known.

The prior knowledge on the part of the dog’s owner may be established by evidence such as the dog had been known to growl, snap, or bare its teeth, or that the owner chose to restrain the dog and by the manner in which the dog was restrained.

Where a dog behaves in a manner that would not necessarily be considered dangerous or ferocious, but nevertheless that dog reflects a proclivity to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm, the dog can be found to have vicious propensities. When such a proclivity by the dog results in an injury to a person, the owner may be found liable.

The fact, however, that a dog was kept enclosed or chained, or that the dog previously barked at people is not sufficient to establish that it had vicious propensities.

See, Collier v. Zambito, 1 N.Y.3d 444 (2004).

New York Law and Resources Relating to Dog Bites:

Petrone v. Fernandez, 12 N.Y.3d 546 (2009)

The prior vicious propensity of a dog does not have to be shown necessarily by an actual bite, but even knowledge of a particular dog baring its teeth or the posting of a “Beware of Dog” sign outside a property might suffice.

The mere fact, however, that the owner was negligent by failing to leash a dog, for example, is not sufficient to establish the dog owner’s liability, absent proof that the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s prior vicious propensities.

Dykeman v. Heht, 52 A.D.3d 767 (2nd Dept. 2008)

The prior vicious propensity of a dog may be found where the dog growled, barked, snarled, and bared its teeth, which exceeds normal canine behavior of barking and growling.

Levine v. Kadison, --- N.Y.S.2d ----, 2010 WL 377706 (2nd Dept. 2010)

When harm is caused by a dog, the dog’s owner liability is determined solely by application of the rule articulated in the Court of Appeals case of Collier v. Zambito. That rule is the rule of strict liability for harm caused by a dog when the owner of the dog knows or should have known of the dogs vicious propensities.

Strunk v. Zoltanski, 62 N.Y.2d 572 (1984).

The rule of strict liability for a dog bite also applies to an out of possession landlord, where the landlord knew or should have known of that the tenant’s dog had prior vicious propensities.

New York City Health Code (Section 11.03)

The Code requires all animal and dog bites to be reported within 24 hours of the event. All personal information submitted is held by the City of New York in strict confidence..

Information About Rabies

  • NYC Health Department (www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/home/home.shtml)
  • About Rabies
  • CDC (www.cdc.gov/rabies/)
1 Comment
  1. nice share, good article, very useful for me…thanks

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