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Who’s Liable for a Dog Bite in Virginia? 

Which person is at fault for a dog bite injury depends on the circumstances. The owner might be liable if they don’t restrain their dog properly in public. A business owner could be at fault for allowing dangerous breeds on their property around guests.

A dog’s owner could be liable for a dog injury in many situations. The most common are below.

Unprovoked Attack

When a dog attacks a person without provocation, the injuries the victim sustains aren’t their fault. The dog’s owner could be liable for the injured person’s medical bills and other expenses.

However, a dog attack might not be the owner’s fault if the victim engages in any of these actions:

  • Harms the owner in front of their dog
  • Abuses or torments the dog
  • Trespasses on the dog owner’s property

Dangerous Dog

Virginia follows the one-bite rule when it comes to dog bites. That means a dog falls under the classification of a dangerous dog after it causes a serious injury to a person or kills a companion animal.

It is the owner’s responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid future attacks. That means the owner must register their dog with the dangerous dog registry, keep it in an enclosure or on a leash in a fenced-in yard, and meet other requirements under state law. If the dog bites another person without provocation, the owner could be liable. 

Inadequate Control in Public

Dog owners must maintain control of their dogs while on public property to avoid injuries to others. Although there is no statewide leash law, localities can adopt ordinances requiring owners to keep their dogs restrained or leashed to prevent them from running at large.

Someone who lets their dog roam freely while in public places could be liable if their dog bites someone. The owner must keep an eye on the dog at all times, especially if there isn’t a leash law.

Not Contained on Private Property

Dogs should be enclosed or properly restrained on the owner’s residential property. Allowing a dog to run outside is permitted if the dog is within a fenced-in yard or enclosure. The enclosure must be high and sturdy enough to prevent the dog from escaping. Sometimes, owners place signs around their property to notify others of the dog.

The dog’s owner is liable for a dog bite injury in many scenarios. However, a dog attacking someone could be another person’s fault. Those people could include:

  • Pet sitter or other person caring for the dog – Anyone other than the owner taking care of the dog becomes responsible for it. That person must maintain control of the dog at all times, whether on the owner’s property or in public locations. The pet sitter might be liable for injuries the dog causes if they don’t follow state laws or local ordinances.
  • Minor dog owner – A child under 18 years old caring for a dog cannot be held liable for a dog bite injury. Instead, the parents could be liable if the dog injures someone while the dog is in the child’s care.
  • Property owner – Property owners must ensure the safety of their guests. The property owner should be aware of the dangers, whether the dog is at someone else’s home or on public property, such as a restaurant. If the dog bites someone, the dog’s owner could be liable. However, the property owner might also be liable for allowing dogs on their property, especially if they know the dog is a dangerous breed.
  • Landlord – A landlord might be liable if they know their tenant’s dog caused someone’s injuries before but didn’t do anything about it. Allowing someone to keep a dangerous dog on the property is careless. The landlord could have removed the dog or required the tenant to take specific precautions to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

Contact Us

The Richmond dog bite injury lawyers of The Johnson Injury Firm have over 125 years of combined legal experience. We know how to create a strategy to hold people liable for their actions and get our clients the compensation they deserve.

If you sustained a dog bite injury due to someone else’s negligence, call us at (804) 262-9000 today for a free consultation.

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