So, Your Dog Bit Someone… Are You Liable?

Man’s best friend can be a great companion. Indeed, we often look to our pets to calm and comfort us in moments of stress. But what happens when our furry friend becomes our source of stress? That is, what happens when our pet bites someone? As a pet owner, are you liable when your dog bites or attacks another? As with many areas of the law, it depends.

Dangerous Propensities

Indiana presumes that all dogs, regardless of breed or size, are harmless. However, this presumption is overcome with evidence of a known vicious or dangerous propensity of the particular breed of dog. When a dog owner does not know of their animal’s dangerous propensities, the owner is bound to know the natural tendencies of the particular class of animal to which the dog belongs. If the propensities of the class to which the dog belongs are the kind that one might reasonably expect would cause injury, the owner must use reasonable care to prevent injuries from occurring.

This general rule means a dog owner may not know that his dog has dangerous propensities (such as growling, snarling, or baring teeth); however, if there is evidence that the particular breed of dog has dangerous propensities, the owner may nonetheless be held liable for a bite. This is true even where the owner’s dog has never before attacked or bitten anyone.

A Dog Owners Duty

Importantly, the duty owed by a dog owner is the same regardless of whether the owner is aware of any dangerous propensities; that is, the duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. In determining whether the animal’s owner exercised reasonable care, Indiana courts will consider acts that demonstrate that the dog was securely restrained and confined to prevent the animal from leaving the property absent proper supervised restraint. Such confinements may include a fence (traditional or electric), which the dog cannot climb, dig, jump, or otherwise escape. Restraints may include a leash, chain, cable, or trolley which would sufficiently prevent escape.

A dog bite can be an overwhelming situation for all involved. The best course of action is preventative measures to ensure your companion is safely and appropriately restrained. Be mindful of your animal’s tendencies and, should you find yourself in a lawsuit as a result of your furry friend, don’t hesitate to contact Barrett McNagny for legal assistance.

About the Author: Lauren Minke is a litigation attorney with Barrett McNagny assisting clients with insurance defense, medical malpractice defense, general liability defense, and commercial litigation related to premises liability, real estate, and contracts. She can be reached at or 260.423.8858.

Barrett McNagny LLP

Legal Disclaimer

The information contained in the Barrett McNagny LLP website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice on any subject matter. Furthermore, the information contained on our website may not reflect the most current legal developments. You should not act upon this information without consulting legal counsel.

Your transmission and receipt of information on the Barrett McNagny LLP website, or sending an e-mail to one of our attorneys or staff, will not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Barrett McNagny LLP. If you need legal advice and want to establish an attorney-client relationship with Barrett McNagny LLP, please contact one of our attorneys by telephone, email, or other means of communication, and allow the attorney to confirm that the firm does not represent other persons or entities involved in the matter and that the firm is willing to accept representation. Until such confirmation is provided by one of our attorneys, you should not transmit information to us that you consider confidential. If you do provide information to us, and no attorney-client relationship is established, the information will not be considered confidential or privileged, and our receipt of such information will not preclude us from representing another client in a matter adverse to you.

Any links to other websites are not intended to be referrals or endorsements of those sites.

Privacy Policy

Terms of Use

ADA Compliance

Transparency Cover Rule: Machine-Readable Files

Contact Us
My name is
and I am a(n)
seeking legal counsel in the area of 
me at
as soon as you can.

Thank you for contacting us!

A representative will be in touch with you shortly.

An attorney-client relationship will NOT be formed merely by sending an email to Barrett McNagny, LLP or to any of its attorneys. Please do not send any information specific to your legal needs until you obtain approval from a Barrett McNagny, LLP attorney, as the content of such email will not be considered confidential or privileged. By sending us an email, you confirm your understanding of this notification. If you agree, you may use the e-mail links on this page to contact an attorney.