New Jersey Dog Law

Liability Statute

The owner of any dog that bites a person in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the owner's property, is liable for damages, regardless of the dog's former viciousness or the owner's knowledge of its viciousness.

Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Statute

The Meaning of a "Vicious Dog"

A vicious dog is:

  • a dog that, when not provoked, has killed a person or has caused serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury is bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
  • a dog that has engaged in dog-fighting activities.
  • Once a dog is declared vicious, it will be destroyed.

The Meaning of a "Potentially Dangerous Dog"

A "potentially dangerous dog" is:

  • a dog that has caused bodily injury to a person during an unprovoked attack and poses a serious threat of bodily injury or death to a person. Bodily injury means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
  • a dog that has severely injured or killed another domestic animal; provided that the dog injured or killed was not the aggressor;
  • a dog that poses a threat of death to another domestic animal; or
  • a dog that has been trained, tormented, badgered, baited or encouraged to engage in unprovoked attacks upon people or domestic animals.

Legal Responsibilities of Potentially Dangerous Dog Owners

  • The owner must register the dog as potentially dangerous.
  • The dog must be enclosed in a structure that has sound sides, a top and a bottom, and that prevents it from escaping. A fence must be placed around the enclosure that is at least 6 feet high and at least 3 feet from the enclosure. The enclosure must be locked to prevent entry by other people. If taken out of the enclosure, the dog must be securely muzzled and restrained with a tether approved by an animal control officer that has a minimum tensile strength that is more than what is required to restrict the dog's movements to a radius of no more than 3 feet from the owner.
  • The owner must conspicuously display a sign on his property warning that a potentially dangerous dog is on the premises. The sign must be visible and legible from 50 feet of the dog's enclosure.
  • Dangerous dog owners may be required to maintain liability insurance in an amount determined by a municipal judge to cover any damage or injury caused by the potentially dangerous dog.

Liability of Owners with Potentially Dangerous Dogs

  • Violations of any provision of the Potentially Dangerous Dog Statute subject the owner to fines of up to $1,000 per day and seizure of the dog.
  • Municipalities can enact procedures to register potentially dangerous dogs and they can require an owner to pay a fee.

Back to state dog law map

Get Answers to Your Questions:

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

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.