Photo by Sora Shimazaki:

Dog parks have a host of physical and social benefits for canines and their owners. However, a study published in the journal, Animals, has found that intense conflicts arise all too often in dog parks, leading to a need for better design and management. For instance, a well-designed park with clear boundaries and fencing that separates dogs of different sizes can reduce serious injuries. Moreover, public meetings, online polls, and anonymous emails can all mitigate conflicts between dog owners. Despite your best intentions, however, there may be a chance that your dog may be attacked by another dog, either at the park or on your way there. This is why it is important to be aware of your legal rights and obligations.


Your Legal Rights as a Dog Owner

If your dog has been attacked or killed by another dog, the other owners may be liable to pay the vet bills if they breached state dog leash laws. If the attacking dog is listed as a dangerous breed, then the owner is usually liable for damages and veterinary costs. They may also be liable for the original price you paid for your dog (if relevant).


What Happens if You Are Attacked?

Regardless of whether the victim of a dog attack is your dog or yourself or another family member, there are certain things you should do without fail. You should gather evidence, find out the name of the owner, notify animal control authorities of the attack, obtain an incident report, compile relevant medical records, and contact insurance companies to make a claim. You should speak with a leading dog bite lawyer, since dog cases can be complex—especially if the attack results not only in physical injury, but also in trauma.


What Occurs if Your Dog Has Attacked Another Dog or Person?

State laws vary, but usually, dog owners are liable for damages suffered by a person their dog bites. However, if the dog attacks your dog, you may have to sue for negligence (because the state may not deem your dog “personal property”). In order to make a successful negligence claim, you would need to show that you owned the other person a duty of care, that this duty was breached, that injuries resulted from the breach, and that the other party suffered damages. In some states, the injured dog’s owner can also sue you via a “strict liability clause.” They would have to prove that you knew your dog was dangerous or aggressive, or that you were negligent because you violated an animal control law passed to protect the public.


One of the biggest tragedies a dog owner can experience is being involved in a dog attack. If you visit a dog park, make sure it is well-designed and visited by responsible dog owners as a whole. Follow dog leash laws and avoid areas where dogs that are larger than your own roam free. If an attack occurs, see a specialist lawyer quickly to ensure you can obtain any damages you are entitled to.