Taking Responsibility for Dog Bites

Dog bites are tough cases.

First, the idea that man's best friend can be anything but is a hard idea to swallow.

Second, injuries from a dog bite can be devastating, even fatal.

Lastly, determining who is responsible is tricky and confusing (even for attorneys) given the fact that each state has different legal standards for dog bites. In Nevada, there is not a specific civil statute reserved for dog bites.

A dog bite can be a heartbreaking situation on both sides. Your neighbor's adorable, loving and friendly dog who has never even hurt a fly, does the unthinkable and attacks someone. That someone is your or your child. Can you hold the owner accountable? Yes, you can, if you can prove the owner acted unreasonably, and their actions resulted in the injuries.

A 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found on average, dogs injure about 4.5 million people every year. Of those injuries, approximately 885,000 required medical care. These numbers are on the rise, as are personal injuries cases involving dog bites and attacks.

In most dog bite cases in Nevada, the victim seeking compensation does so under a negligence theory. This means the plaintiff and his or her attorney will argue that the dog owner/handler breached their duty of care (i.e. acted unreasonably), resulting in injuries.

Duty of care when it comes to handling a dog varies by state, but includes things such as keeping a dog on a leash or behind a fence. If the actions taken by the dog's owner or handler are deemed unreasonable, then a judge or jury must side with the plaintiff.

What if things aren't so clear-cut? Sometimes the dog owner isn't the one responsible for controlling the dog or complying with any laws. That can fall on the shoulders of others who are temporarily in charge of the dog, such as:

  • a dog walker
  • a dog sitter
  • a business

The good news is that even if the owner entrusts their dog to someone else, that doesn't absolve him or her of responsibility. There may just be more than one defendant.

While we want our clients to be fairly compensated for any injuries suffered, we'd much rather them not have to go through the pain and suffering of a dog attack. The Humane Society of the United States has a great resource detailing tips to avoid dog bites, you can find it here.

If you've been attacked by a dog give our office a call to discuss your rights and legal options.


Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-912-4451 or zach@p2lawyers.com.