Dog Bites... When Are Dog Owners Liable For Injuries in Suffolk County?

By Mark T. Freeley, Esq. (Open Post)December 17, 2013 at 12:17pm Many people may be surprised to learn that just because a dog bites someone in Suffolk County, it does not automatically mean that the dog's owner is legally responsible for the injuries caused by the dog bite. Suffolk County courts require that the injured person prove that the dog owner had prior knowledge of the dog's "vicious propensities" in order to recover for their injuries. Moreover, the courts do not consider any particular breed of dog to be dangerous as a matter of law. Of course, if the involved dog has bitten someone else before while the owner owned the dog, it will be easy for the injured person to prove their claim. However, there are other behaviors of the dog that can be considered in determining whether the dog owner was aware that the dog possessed vicious tendencies. Proof of growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, lunging or other such behaviors may be enough to raise a question of fact to maintain a claim, and not have it dismissed. Some may argue that the law is unfair to the injured person, and that dog owners should always be liable if their dog bites someone. However, if a dog has never displayed any signs of being vicious, what should we expect a dog owner to do to avoid an unexpected biting by their dog? There is also a greater societal issue to consider if there was automatic liability for every dog bite. Many more dogs that would make amazing companions would remain unadopted in shelters and with rescue groups because, there would be less people willing to adopt them due to the increased liability. Moreover, many of our animal shelters and animal rescue groups would cease to exist due to the increased financial burden of being liable for every single dog they adopted out, even when they had no knowledge of the prior behavior of the dog. This would obviously lead to thousands of more dogs being euthanized in New York, which is a result clearly no one, dog lover or not, would deem acceptable. Mark T. Freeley, Esq. -