This is the time of the year when delivery drivers, mail carriers and even friends will be visiting your home. Are dog owners always on the hook for expenses when their dog bites someone in public or even their own property?

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with having a dog as a member of your family. Besides taking care of its physical needs there are a lot of behavioral issues that may may need to be addressed. Leash laws and regulations are extremely common on public property but what about your property? Is there a difference? You may be surprised by the answer.

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What happens if you are at a park or maybe you're at home and your dog is outside secured behind a fence and someone comes over unannounced? Your dog can't be expected to be on a leash every time someone comes over. Your dog may not be aggressive but if they get scared or uncomfortable they may bite out of defense. Could you be taken to court for injuries or even damages in New York State? Is the liability always on dog owners for every instance of biting?

How Difficult Is It To Sue Over A Dog Bite In New York State?

We asked a local attorney to help clear this up for us.

"So dog bite laws in the state of NY are actually quite different than most think.  If your dog bites someone and causes injury you are not necessarily on the hook to pay anything.  In order to compel the dog owner to pay for the injuries their dog caused, the injured party must prove that the dog had PRIOR vicious propensities.  Meaning the dog must have displayed aggressive behaviors on occasions PRIOR to the day it bit the person.  Evidence of prior vicious propensities could include aggressive barking, growling, fighting with other dogs or animals, biting or attempting to bite others, etc.   If the injured party cannot prove prior viscous propensities then their case is dismissed by the judge and they receive zero in compensation.  Their medical bills in that instance would be paid by their own health insurance, not the dog owner.


These same rules apply to private property the same as public property.  If your dog bites a delivery person then the delivery person can sue, but can only win if they can prove prior vicious propensities. A defense a dog owner can use is if the person was a trespasser.  A “beware of dog” sign will not alleviate any of the dog owner’s liability.  I’ve represented many delivery persons for dog bite injuries successfully against dog owners, not the easiest of cases." - Alex Mainetti, Mainetti & Mainetti


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Gallery Credit: Nick Kessler