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If my dog attacks a home intruder, am I liable for damages?

Danville, VA |
Filed under: Animal law

I have a large dog, a family pet. I have "beware of dog" signs in English and Spanish clearly posted on the doors and windows of my home. If an intruder breaks in to my dwelling and is attacked by my dog, am I liable for criminal or civil charges?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. No. Someone breaks into your home and they complain that the dog did its job and protected the property? They're the one with the problem. Dogs are known to bite and to be protective; the intruder takes the risk.

    Having said that, I'm certain you have taken three precautions and if not do them now: (1) license the dog, (2) make sure the dog has all of its required shots, (3) make sure your homeowners insurance company knows about the dog.

    This answer is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided in an office consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, with experience in the area of law in which your concern lies.


  2. no. while there have been some suits in some states by burglars, or home intruders, generaly they're loosers


  3. Can you be sued? Yes. Will the suit be successful? Probably not. I agree with my colleague - make sure the dog is licensed, shots kept up to date, and let your insurer know you have a dog.


  4. The short answer is "no," unless there is some dispute over whether this person was actually breaking into your home.

    Lorrie Elliott


    Man is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. (Mark Twain)
    *Animal Law Practice of Elizabeth L. Elliott
    17837 First Ave. South #174
    Normandy Park, WA 98148
    Phone: (206) 276-2192
    Fax: (206) 824-1162
    *Past Chair, WSBA, Animal Law Section (2009-2010)
    *JD, LLM, UW School of Law
    *http://www.seattleanimallawyer.com/