Statutory law imposes liability for injuries after the plaintiff proves:

1. ownership or keepership of the dog

2. the dogs actions proximately caused the injury

3. monetary amount of damages

A defense to the statutory claim is trespass or committing a criminal offense on the property.

Also, no punitive damages are available in a claim brought under the statute.

A common law negligence claim does allow for punitive damages in some cases and requires more proof in order to prevail. Under this theory, the plaintiff must prove:

1. the defendant owned or harbored the dog

2. the dog was vicious

3. the defendant knew of the dogs viciousness

4. the dog was kept in a negligent manner after the keeper knew of its viciousness.

For the dog owner, it is important to know that your dog is not entitled to one free bite. Under the statute, prior knowledge of a dogs viciousness is not a consideration. However, if you know your dog is mean and do not take steps to protect others, you can be held liable under the common law for compensatory and punitive damages.

We all love our pets. As responsible citizens, we must take steps to protect others from our dogs and should understand that we can be held economically liable for any injuries our dogs might cause to another.

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