What is Your Legal Responsibility if Your Dog Bites?

Home/Blog, Tips, Training/What is Your Legal Responsibility if Your Dog Bites?

A well-trained dog is a dog that is pleasant to be around. It is a dog that responds to your commands and anticipates what you are going to do or say in its presence. It is also a dog that is far less likely than a poorly trained dog to attack a human or animal victim and put you in a position where you can be required to pay for the victim’s damages and potentially have to face the decision to have the dog euthanized or classified as a dangerous dog.

Hiring a professional dog trainer is worth the money you will spend, especially if your dog is a large or powerful breed. A well trained dog is simply a better companion than a dog that has not learned how to safely interact with humans.

In Washington, Dog Owners are Strictly Liable for Bite Victims’ Damages

Unlike some other states, there is no “one bite” rule in Washington. This means that any time a dog bites a victim, the dog’s owner is liable for the victim’s damages. These damages can include the victim’s medical bills and any other expenses incurred through the injury, like missed wages.

Washington’s dog bite law states that a dog’s owner is liable for any damages that result from a bite that occurs while the victim is in public or lawfully in a private place as long as the victim did not provoke the dog into biting. If the victim somehow provoked the dog, such as by teasing or cornering it, the dog’s owner might not be liable for the victim’s damages. Further, if the victim was trespassing when the bite occurred, the dog’s owner might not be liable for any resulting damages from a bite.

Bites are the only type of injury covered by Washington’s strict liability law. If your dog allegedly injures a victim in any other way, the victim must prove that your negligence caused the injury in order to recover compensation. In cases like this, negligence generally means taking reasonable care to restrain your dog or keep it out of situations where injuries can occur.

Owners are Liable for Non-human Animals’ Damages, Too

The victim’s species does not matter if your dog bites and causes an injury. If your dog injures or kills another animal, such as another dog or a livestock animal, you may be liable to cover that animal’s veterinary bills or the animal’s monetary value to its owner.

Training your Dog will Protect your Dog from Harm

If your dog knows to come when called, you can protect it from situations that put it in danger’s way like busy streets and altercations with other animals.

A properly trained dog should not have to be restrained like an untrained dog, which can reduce your chance of being named as a liable party in a personal injury claim.

In addition to these benefits, training your dog will enable you to bring it to dog parks and other public spaces where it can socialize with other dogs and people, receiving important social stimulation that promotes good mental and physical health for your dog and you.

Know your Legal Rights by Working with an Experienced Seattle Dog Bite Lawyer

If you find yourself in a legal tangle after your dog injures a human or animal, speak with an experienced liability lawyer about potential defenses to the allegation and your rights.


A note from Sean – I just wanted to thank Stephan for writing this guest post to fill us in a little on the liability issues and responsibility we have if our dogs’ bite someone.  If you have further questions or find yourself involved in an unfortunate biting scenario, feel free to follow the link in the article to see if Stephan’s firm can help you in your challenging situation.



About the author:

Author: Stephen Hornbuckle
Firm: The Hornbuckle Firm
Bio: Stephen Hornbuckle and the legal team at the Hornbuckle Firm have been practicing personal injury law for over 40 years. We specialize in brain injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, civil litigation, and varying personal injury cases.

Leave A Comment

About Sean

I’ve been training people and dogs in Seattle for the last decade and a half. My main focus when working with clients every week in one-on-one, private lessons is to help people learn to get their dogs to a functional level so that they can actually enjoy spending time every day with their dog instead of stressing about their dog’s behavior issues.

Ask Sean a question!

If we use your question in the show, Sean will send you a coupon code for free access to the online video course!

If you have a question you’d like me to respond to on the show (and you want to hear yourself on a future episode) leave me a voice mail!  1 (844) 364-7929 or email me here.

More Tips

Lesson 1 on a laptop screen

The Dog’s Way Online Video Training Course

Access our video course online immediately!