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Washington, D.C. Dog Law

Liability Statute

Under this statute, if a dog injures a person while it is running at large, the owner's lack of knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities, standing alone, cannot absolve the owner from a finding of negligence.

Dangerous Dog Statute

Potentially Dangerous Dog Definition

A potentially dangerous dog is a dog:

  • that chases or menaces a person or domestic animal in an aggressive manner, causing less than severe injury to a person or domestic animal
  • in a menacing manner, approaches without provocation any person or domestic animal as if to attack, or has demonstrated a propensity to attack without provocation or otherwise to endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals
  • is running at large and has been impounded by an animal control agency three or more times in D.C. within any 12-month period

The Meaning of a Dangerous Dog

Under D.C. law, a "dangerous dog" is:

  • a dog that has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal without provocation
  • any dog engaging in any behavior that would satisfy a potentially dangerous dog classification, subsequent to being determined a potentially dangerous dog

Legal Responsibilities of Dangerous Dog Owners

  • An owner must either confine a dangerous dog indoors or secure confinement outdoors in a locked structure designed and constructed to:
    • deter escape of the dog;
    • protect the dog from the elements; and
    • prevent contact with the dog from humans and other domestic animals.
    When the dog is not confined, it must be controlled by a responsible person and muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash that is no longer than 4 feet.
  • Owners of dangerous dogs must register their dogs with local authorities as dangerous, and have a microchip containing owner information implanted.
  • Owners must post their property with a written warning that a dangerous dog is on the property. The warning must have a conspicuous warning symbol that informs children of the dangerous dog's presence.

Liability of Owners with Dangerous Dogs

In addition to civil liability, if a dangerous dog kills or seriously injures a human or domestic animal, without provocation, the owner is subject to a fine of up to $10,000.

Back to state dog law map

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Note: Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, although if you are injured in an accident, we have relationships with other personal injury attorneys and lawyers throughout the United States.

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