Statistically, about 60 percent of all dog bites occur in the home, with a family or friend’s dog involved. For the remaining 40 percent, dogs lunge, bite or injure someone in a public space – on the street, in a dog park, in front of a store and anywhere else away from personal property.
While the dog’s owner may have the right to dispute a claim if the incident happened on his or her property, the scenario changes when you both step into a public space. Nearly all states hold owners responsible for controlling their dogs in public and, as you pursue a claim, consider the following.
Leash laws require the owner or dog’s guardian to control the animal with a physical restraint no longer than six feet on:
- Events on public property
- Other public places
- Planned developments
- Townhouse communities
- Condominium complexes
Furthermore, whoever holds the leash needs to be of an appropriate size to control the dog. For instance, if a child holds the leash of a large dog, then the animal is not properly restrained.
In Connecticut specifically, the state additionally considers it illegal for a dog to roam public places freely, create a disturbance, growl, bite or annoy anyone using public roads. If an animal is found engaging in such behavior, the owner may be fined $92. Along with this factor, the Environmental Protection Department expects all dogs to be kept on leashes at state parks.
What happens in Connecticut when a dog bite occurs in a public place? In this case, an animal control officer quarantines the dog for 14 days in a pound, veterinary hospital or other DOAG-approved space, examines the animal and determines if it has rabies. During this time, the owner must pay all fees associated with the quarantine.
Strict Liability Laws
When it comes to dog bite cases, states either follow the one-bite rule or strict liability laws. Most states, Connecticut included, follow liability laws. Thus, when a dog bites or attacks someone in public:
- The owner is held liable, regardless of whether he or she could have done something to prevent the bite.
- The owner is liable if the dog bit the plaintiff, assuming the plaintiff didn’t provoke the dog and wasn’t trespassing.
Beyond these basic points, states add their own variations, including if the plaintiff had been warned. Based on Connecticut General Statute § 22-357 Strict Liability, there may be exceptions if the plaintiff trespassed, committed a tort or abused the dog, unless the victim was under 7 years of age. In that case, the defendant is liable regardless of the circumstances surrounding the attack.
While dog parks give pets a place to roam without the restrictions of leashes, they present injury-prone situations and have their own rules. Generally, it’s frowned upon if:
- You bring unneutered male dogs.
- You take an aggressive dog, one that likes to fight or is poorly socialized.
- The dog tends to be fearful and react easily.
Yet, while dog parks are generally free of leash laws, it’s recommended you keep such animals restrained. Should a bite or attack occur here, you have the same rights as an injury in another public place.
However, some dog parks may have a waiver – typically, a sign posted near the entrance about all possible related risks. While this document serves as more of an alert, these waivers aren’t legally binding and don’t absolve the dog and its owner from engaging in reckless, irresponsible behavior.
After you’ve been bit by a dog in a public place, realize your rights and hold the dog’s owner responsible by pursuing claim with Trantolo & Trantolo. To speak with one of our dog bite attorneys, contact us today.