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Am I liable for a 10yr old child trespassing on to my property and getting bit by my dog?

Janesville, WI |

We got a German Sheperd pup 10 months ago.. We installed an invisble fence to keep him in. he recognizes his barriers and does not cross them. Even on a leash he still does want to go near them. The neighbrs kids were playing ball and hit it into the yard, the 10 yr old came in to get it and when the pup approached him instead of leaviing or standing still he started jumping up and down. The kid ended up with a single puncture just above his knee. The med cost was $599. The parents say their kid did nothing wrong and they are not at fault. They knew of the pup because he ( the neighbor) once came over and apologized for his dog trespassing to play with the pup.

The child was well inside the barrier and could have left. The dog would not have followed or pursued. The pup has no previous incidents of biting or chasing. They also made a verbal agreement to take care of the incident at first, which was witnessed to by 4 people.. then she called and changd her mind.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Yes, you are liable, but I think you have a good argument that the child's parents are also liable. You should offer to pay half the medical bill (make sure you get an agreement in writing that the payment is in settlement of any and all claims arising from the incident). If they refuse, you should turn the matter over to your insurance carrier (if you don't want them to settle make sure you tell them so IN WRITING) or speak with a local attorney. The State Bar of Wisconsin can give you a referral: www.wisbar.org

    Be aware that in many places an electric fence is NOT considered proper containment. You should never leave the dog outside alone with only an electric fence to contain him. In addition, if you think they will make a complaint to animal control and/or the police, make sure you can prove that your dog has had obedience training or is currently in training.

    If we do not have a signed fee agreement I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.


  2. It will depend on your State's dog bite laws and your county's dog leash laws. You should review the State and local regulations. Furthermore, you should notify your homeowner's insurance company about the incident. If you have coverage, you will be jeopardizing the coverage if you do not timely report incidents that may result in claims to your company.


  3. You are probably liable for the dog bite. You owe a duty to trespassers to warn of known dangers. A dog is a known danger and you are strictly liable for their injuries. If your had a sign warning about the dog or the dog was in a fence this might mitigate your damages, but probably not in this case since it was an electronic barrier.

    You need to consult an experienced attorney to make a proper defense, and you may need to notify your homeowner's insurance of a potential claim. Here is an excerpt of the Wisconsin Statutes:

    Wisconsin Statutes section174.02(1) provides that "the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property," and the statute allows for double damages if the owner of the dog "was notified or knew that the dog previously injured or caused injury to a person, domestic animal or property." See sections 174.02(1)(a) and (b):

    Wis. Stat. Ann., sec. 174.02(1)(a)
    (a) Without notice. Subject to s. 895.045 and except as provided in s. 895.57 (4), the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property.

    174.02(1)(b)
    (b) After notice. Subject to s. 895.045 and except as provided in s. 895.57 (4), the owner of a dog is liable for 2 times the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property if the owner was notified or knew that the dog previously injured or caused injury to a person, domestic animal or property.

    A dog owner also faces statutory penalties:

    174.02(2)(a)
    (a) Without notice. The owner of a dog shall forfeit not less than $50 nor more than $500 if the dog injures or causes injury to a person, domestic animal, property, deer, game birds or the nests or eggs of game birds.
    174.02(2)(b)
    (b) After notice. The owner of a dog shall forfeit not less than $200 nor more than $1,000 if the dog injures or causes injury to a person, domestic animal, property, deer, game birds or the nests or eggs of game birds, if the owner was notified or knew that the dog previously injured or caused injury to a person, domestic animal, property, deer, game birds or the nests or eggs of game birds.
    174.02(2)(c)
    (c) Penalties in addition to liability for damages. The penalties in this subsection are in addition to any other liability imposed on the owner of a dog.

    Section 174.02(1) has been interpreted to impose strict liability on a dog owner, "subject only to the defense of comparative negligence.

    This is not intended as legal advice. It is only provided for educational purposes and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. Further no attorney client relationship is or has been formed by answering this question.


  4. Well, I wouldn't just jump up and down offering to pay anything, nor admit anything at all! Anything you say can AND WILL be used against you in court.

    FIRST - get your homeowner's carrier to get you an attorney.

    SECOND - you have a very good defense in that the child came onto your property... I don't even think the attractive nuisance theory would work here...

    THIRD - speak to an attorney...

    Good luck -

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