West Virginia Dog Law

Liability Statute

Any owner or keeper of a dog who permits it to run at large is liable for any damages it inflicts. If the dog is running at large at the time of the injury, the owner’s negligence need not be proven.

Common Law Liability

When a dog injures a person when it is not running at large, the owner is subject to liability for damages if the injured person proves the owner’s negligence caused the injury. Negligence will not attach unless injured party can demonstrate, with particular emphasis on animal's past behavior and characteristics, that the injury could reasonably and foreseeably have been anticipated by the owner or keeper of the domestic animal. In cases where the plaintiff can show that the owner had knowledge that the dog had a dangerous or vicious propensity, the owner will be strictly liable.

Vicious Dog Statute

A person is not permitted to keep a dog if he or she knows it is vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other people, regardless of whether the dog wears a tag or muzzle. Once a dog is proven to be vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking people, a judge may authorize it to be destroyed.

Dogs Generally Considered to be Vicious

Any person who keeps a dog that is generally considered to be vicious, for the purpose of protection, must acquire a special license from the county assessor.

Legal Responsibilities of Dog Owners

The owner must secure the dog in a way that prevents it from injuring people who lawfully enter the owner’s property.

Liability of Dog Owners

The owner of a dog generally considered to be vicious is strictly liable for any injuries it causes. This vicious dog law, however, does not abolish defenses to personal injury actions.

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