18
Jun2018

Who Let the Dogs Out?! No, Seriously, Who Let Them Out?

Regardless of the answer, if you’re a dog owner, reading this article could save you from serious legal consequences concerning your beloved companion. This article will aid in your understanding of the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute and how you can reduce the consequences that result from your dog injuring someone or their property. Before reading further, it should be noted that dog bites are a strict liability offense. This means that the law is not concerned with whether you intended for your dog to bite someone, whether you took steps to prevent your dog from biting someone, or even if you were unaware that your dog bit someone, rather, in the eyes of the law, if your dog bites someone you are responsible for it.

According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 140, Section 155 states:

“If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.”  M.G.L. Ch.140, §155.

The first segment of the statute states that if you are the owner of a dog, or if you are the parent/guardian of a minor dog owner (such as a dog owned by your children), you are responsible for the damages caused by the dog bite and/or the damages caused by the dog to another’s property.  However, this statement is further qualified noting that if the person who was bitten was trespassing, teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog at the time olf the bite, the owner of the dog may not be liable for damages.

The final segment of the dog bite law states that if the dog bite victim is under seven (7) years of age when the incident occurs, it is presumed that the individual was not trespassing, teasing, tormenting, abusing, or committing a tort involving the dog at the time.  This means that unless you specifically prove that the child was trespassing, teasing, tormenting, or abusing it will be as if the child was not doing any of these things.

When it comes to owning a dog, with great companionship comes great responsibility.  To further protect yourself from the legal ramifications of your rambunctious pet, be sure to find out if your homeowner’s insurance policy covers dog bites. Massachusetts’ homeowner’s insurance policies generally cover most of, if not all of the damages resulting from your dog’s devious behavior.  Constantly knowing the whereabouts of your dog is difficult, but familiarizing yourself with the rights and responsibilities associated with owning a dog is effortless and invaluable.

If you have any questions or if you need guidance, please call the attorneys at Wynn & Wynn, P.C. at 1.800.852.5211 or request a free consultation.

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