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If my dog is on-leash in a on-leash only area, and he bites an off-leash dog who approaches him, who is liable?

Portland, OR |

Our dog has never bitten anyone/thing, but he is very protective and doesn't like to be approached (aggressively or otherwise) by dogs when he's on a leash. Recently a much smaller off-leash dog attacked him while we were walking down a sidewalk... thankfully the situation didn't escalate. But if it had, would we be responsible for injury to the dog who initiated the attack? What about in areas with strict rules (public parks/trails etc.)?

-->As of yet the situation is strictly hypothetical, as no real injury occurred. However, my dog is a pit bull (a very well behaved/trained pit bull adopted as a puppy). I feel like a walking liability just owning him, sometimes, given how most people feel about the breed. I often take him on public trails, and in Oregon the on-leash rule is clearly posted at every trailhead, but many countless people don't follow them. All I want to know is if an off leash dog aggressively approached my dog in such an location and my dog bit it, would I still be responsible (given their dog is supposed to be on leash on the trails)? Again, my dog has never bit another dog, but he will growl/bark/lunge if he's threatened.

Attorney Answers 5

  1. All case law is determined by the individual facts of each occurrence. Until you can provide an exact set of facts, it is impossible for a lawyer in your state to give you a responsible answer. Common sense could be applied to your question if the facts were just that simple, but there are often varying facts that can affect the answer.

  2. Report this claim to your insurer. Also consider consulting with a local personal injury/insurance lawyer to learn more about your options. Good luck.

  3. State laws vary, but typically the dog owner is responsible.

  4. I'm sure you know this already, but if your pooch goes for another, please PLEASE do not stick your own hands in to separate the dogs. We don't want you getting bit. If the other dog's human is stupid enough to do so that's another story... Take your furble by his hind legs and do a "wheelbarrow" with him to get him off balance. That should take him out of the scuffle in theory and then what the other dog does will still be aggression if he or she keeps going at your critter. And then if that is the case, you have me and a couple of other Portland Animal Law attorneys to help you. :)

    THIS IS NOT A CONFIDENTIAL FORUM. PLEASE DO NOT PROVIDE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION BECAUSE THERE IS NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE PROTECTION. My statement is only a matter of my opinion and does not go to the merits of your case. Seek advice from an attorney in your local area if you have confidential or case specific questions or concerns. No Attorney-Client relationship is established between myself and any other party by communication through until both parties have signed a Retainer Agreement and any necessary fees have been paid to my firm. I am licensed to practice law in the State of Oregon and the Federal District Court for the State of Oregon. If you are in Oregon I am happy to help you if I am able or otherwise will find you someone who can.

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