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Washington Dog Law


Liability Statute

The owner of any dog that bites a person, when unprovoked, while the person is in a public place or lawfully on a private place, including the owner's property, is liable for damages the dog causes, regardless of its former viciousness and regardless of the owner's knowledge of viciousness. Additionally, anyone who keeps or harbors a dog when it attacks can be held liable for injuries caused to the victim.

Dangerous Dog Statute

The Meaning of a "Potentially Dangerous Dog"

A "potentially dangerous" dog is a dog that when unprovoked:

  • bites a human or a domestic animal;
  • chases or approaches a person in any public place in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack; or
  • any dog with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to cause injury or otherwise to threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals.

The Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"

A "dangerous dog" is any dog that:

  • inflicts severe injury on a human being without provocation. Severe injury is one that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.
  • kills a domestic animal without provocation while the dog is off the owner's property; or
  • has been previously found to be potentially dangerous because of injury inflicted on a human and thereafter aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans.

Legal responsibilities of potentially dangerous dog owners are regulated by each individual county.

Legal Responsibilities of Owners of Dangerous Dogs

  • An owner must register the dog as dangerous.
  • The owner must confine the dog indoors or outdoors in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure that prevents the entry of young children, as well as escape by the animal. The pen or structure must have secure sides and a secure top. It is unlawful for an owner of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be outside the proper enclosure, unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under the physical restraint of a responsible person.
  • The owner must post the property with a clear, visible sign that warns people that a dangerous dog is on the property. The owner must also conspicuously display a sign with a warning symbol that informs children of the presence of a dangerous dog.
  • The owner must maintain an insurance policy of at least $250,000, insuring the owner for any personal injuries inflicted by the dangerous dog.

Owner's Liability for Aggressive Attacks by Any Dog, Including Potentially Dangerous or Dangerous Dogs

The owner of any dog that, without provocation, aggressively attacks and causes severe injury or death to any human that is not a trespasser, is guilty of a felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

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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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