By Atty. Chris Cramer
In Connecticut, when someone is bitten by a dog, the owner of the dog is “strictly liable” for the injuries and damages that were caused. In other words, there are very few defenses a dog owner can rely on if his or her dog attacks someone.
There is a tendency for people to focus on the dog as being the problem. After all, the dog is the one who actually bit its victim, right? Most of the time, however, if you look at the dog’s life, environment, and events that led up to the attack, it is usually the human who is the problem and not the dog. Thousands of dogs are needlessly euthanized every year because we, as the owners of these dogs, fail to take responsibility for them before an unfortunate situation occurs.
It is presumptuous to label a dog who has bitten a “bad” dog, or a “vicious” dog. What was happening just before the dog bite? Was the dog off its leash when it should not have been? Has the dog been kept up to date on its veterinarian visits to ensure its physical and mental well-being? Does the dog have an outlet to release its energy or is it pent up all day and every day causing mental stress? The list of questions and scenarios could go on forever, but if you look back at what led up to the dog bite and how the dog is cared for, a dog attack will almost always stem from the mistake or irresponsibility of the owner.
This is why we have our strict liability statute in Connecticut. Short of someone trespassing (with intent to commit a crime), teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, the owner is expected to be in control of his or her dog in every situation. As dog owners, we need to become more vigilant with our dogs and take responsibility for their health, well-being, and safety. We need to do this in an effort to prevent dog bites from ever happening in the first place, to help avoid the unnecessary euthanizing of our dogs and also the stigma that some dogs cannot escape.