Who is Liable If a Dog Bites Someone at a Dog Park?

By Chris Dixon


Dog bite laws and dog park rules vary from state to state, but most identify the liable party in a dog bite accident as the dog’s owner. When a dog’s owner decides to take their pet to the dog park, it’s their responsibility to supervise the dog and make sure that it doesn’t harm itself or others. If another dog or owner is bitten at a dog park, unprovoked, the owner is liable for the victim’s damages in most cases, unless they can prove that the victim contributed to or caused the accident.

Dog Park Accident Liability

Most dog parks are designated as “use at your own risk” facilities and have strict rules for people who choose to use the facilities. Dog owners are required to restrain their animals before entering the dog park, to protect not just their pet, but other animals and people at the dog park from potential harm. If a dog bites another animal, or someone else at a dog park, the dog’s owner is liable to compensate the victim for damages sustained in the accident. While dog park rules apply, a state’s dog statute laws overrule dog park regulations.

For example, in the state of Missouri, if a person is bitten by someone else’s dog, while on public property, and didn’t do anything to provoke the animal, the person can sue the dog’s owner for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other expenses that arose because of the accident.

It’s essential to keep in mind though that in some states, dog bite liability laws are not as cut-and-dry. The state of Idaho acknowledges a “one bite rule” for dog bite accidents that gives owners a free pass if they didn’t know or shouldn’t have reasonably known that their dog could harm another person. However, if a dog owner doesn’t use proper care when handling their dog, or fails to supervise their pet, and someone is bitten, the victim can pursue a claim against the dog owner for negligence. For example, if a dog park requires animals to be on a leash when using the facility, and a dog’s owner doesn’t follow this rule, and someone is harmed by the negligent owner’s pet, the owner of the “dangerous” dog is liable for the injured person’s damages.

Dog Park Guidelines

Accidents at the dog park are entirely preventable, but every day approximately 1,000 people are injured in the U.S. in dog bite accidents. Some dog breeds are more likely to cause dog bite accidents, including “dangerous dogs” such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and American Bull Dogs, but even if someone owns a “dangerous dog,” there are several steps that can be taken to prevent dog bite accidents, and dog park guidelines that are in place to keep visitors and their dogs safe. The most common dog park guidelines include the following safety tips:

  • No dog should be left unsupervised by their owner or caretaker
  • Dogs should be restrained at all times when visiting the dog park
  • If a dog’s owner knows that the dog has a propensity to be dangerous, they shouldn’t take them to the dog park
  • If a dog has injured someone in the past, they shouldn’t visit the dog park, even if on a leash
  • Large dogs shouldn’t be taken into “small-dog areas” where the larger dog could attack a smaller dog and cause serious harm

If a dog injures you at the dog park, it’s essential to gather evidence of the owner’s negligence, such as photos, videos, or witness reports, and swap contact information with the dangerous dog’s owner, even if you think your injuries are minor. If the dog carries a disease such as rabies, or your injuries worsen over time, depending on the circumstances of the accident and your state’s dog bite laws, you could pursue a claim against the negligent dog’s owner to recover damages for your harm and losses.

Speak with a Dog Bite Lawyer Today

If a dog bites someone, whether at a dog park or other public facility, the owner is generally liable for the dog’s actions, but it can be challenging to prove that the accident happened unprovoked, or without knowledge of the dog’s propensity to be dangerous. A Dog Bite Lawyer knows your state’s injury laws better than anyone and can defend your case against the negligent dog owner for causing your injuries.

Christopher Dixon and the St. Louis Dog Bite Lawyers at the Dixon Injury Firm are passionate about helping dog bite victims recover the most compensation for their injuries caused by a dog owner’s negligence. Dog parks are supposed to be fun and exciting and serve as a place for dogs to safely socialize and bond with other animals, and their owner’s – no one should have their experience ruined by suffering injuries from another person’s dog.

If you have been injured at the dog park, and are ready to recover compensation from the dog’s liable owner for your pain and suffering caused by their pet, call (314) 409-7060, 855-40-2724 (toll-free), or contact our Dog Bite Lawyers in St. Louis today to schedule a free consultation, and explore the options available to your case.

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