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.

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