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New York Dog Bite Laws

Dog Bite Laws in New York

Understanding dog bite laws in New York is necessary if you own a canine or interact with them regularly. Even if you don’t, knowing the ins and out of these laws can be helpful if you’re ever bitten yourself and seek legal compensation for resulting injuries and other damages.

New York Dog Bite Laws

New York dog bite laws are relatively complicated in that they don’t follow a single set of regulations. As a “mixed” state, New York follows both one bite and strict liability laws.

One Bite vs. Strict Liability

There are two broad interpretations of dog bite laws and penalties. “One Bite” laws were largely in place prior to the 20th century. This required that owners were only held liable for dog bites if the owner knew that the dog might bite in the first place. This protected dogs in case the “only bit once”.

Strict liability dog bite laws are newer regulations followed by many states. These laws mean that defendants are held liable if certain dog bite incidents occur regardless of whether anything could’ve been done to prevent the bite from happening. In essence, they place the dog owner liable if the dog bites any plaintiff provided the dog was not provoked.

In New York’s case, owners of previously adjudicated dangerous dogs are liable for victim medical and veterinary costs. For any other damages, the victim must prove that the dog had a dangerous tendency to fight people, and the owner was aware of their dog’s violent nature. In addition, New York doesn’t let victims receive compensation on grounds of negligence alone.

New York State Dog Bite Statistics

  • 39 people died as a result of dog bites in 2018
  • There is an average of 6,000 emergency department visits related to dog bites each year
  • Dog bites are a leading cause of nonfatal injuries to children
  • Most dog bites are from dogs who have an owner

Can I Be Sued If My Dog Bites Another Dog?

If your dog bites another dog or a person, you can certainly be sued. You should immediately exchange insurance information with the victim of the dog bite and remain calm. You should also make sure to gather information regarding your dog’s vaccination history. Afterward, a New York dog bite defense lawyer should be your next goal. Only a legal expert in this arena will be qualified to present you with the best defense in case of a lawsuit.

Dog bite victims should also exchange insurance information and visit a medical center. Even with vaccinations, dog bites can cause infections.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one in five people bitten by a dog need medical attention of some kind. This can be treatment for an infection or just physical repair of the injured area.

Defense Exceptions

While dog bites can trigger a lawsuit, certain legal protections exist to defend dogs that bite after they were provoked. These rules favor dog owners who rarely have issues with their pets.

Provocation Examples

  • The dog was defending at home against the trespasser
  • The dog was protecting its owner or puppies
  • The dog was reacting to pain or suffering
  • The dog was provoked, either by torment, abuse, or assault


Negligence is a major factor that a prosecutor can use to succeed in any dog bite case. However, negligence is not normally allowed as grounds for compensation or other lawsuit goals. In New York, a vicious propensity or proof that the defendant had foreknowledge of a vicious temperament is required for a successful lawsuit.

The only exception to this surrounds the doctrine of negligence per se. If the defendant violates state law, this constitutes negligence.

Evidence of Vicious Propensity

The defendant must prove that a dog has a vicious propensity in order to make a case for certain types of compensation or for a defendant to be convicted of a misdemeanor. In New York State, the only evidence of a vicious propensity is a prior bite. Barking or general behavioral issues are not enough to prove such a claim.

This means that victims cannot point to dog restraints, like chains or leashes, or “beware dog” signs as evidence that the owner knew of a vicious propensity. Complications such as this are why many dog bite victims seek out skilled dog bite lawyers or attorneys to handle their cases.

Dog Bite Settlements

In general, dog bite settlements cover the cost of medical expenses or trauma/personal injury. Depending on the strength of the prosecution’s case, lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and punitive damages are all recoverable.

However, dog owners may not be required to pay anything if the defendant can prove that they are not liable for damages. Both dog bite victims and owners should seek legal representation in these cases.

Medical Costs Involving Strict Liability

In New York, the owner of the dog must pay the medical costs of a victim of their dog’s bite. This requires proving that the owner is the person who harbors or keeps the dog. It also requires proving that the dog is dangerous. This necessitates proving that the dog behaves in a manner that poses a serious and unjustified threat to a person or another animal.

In addition to medical costs, the owner of a dangerous dog might be required to pay a certain fine. This is usually required in cases of negligence. The amount of the fine can vary drastically depending on:

  • The seriousness of the injury
  • Whether the injury was to a human or a dog
  • Whether the attacking dog was previously adjudicated to be a dangerous dog

New York Dog Bite Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties typically only come into play if the dog owner negligently allows his or her dog to bite another person. They can also be applied if the dog was previously declared to be dangerous or if the injury was particularly serious. Such cases can result in a conviction of a misdemeanor for the dog owner.

In New York State, any serious injury is one that causes death or presents the risk of death or which causes serious or protracted disfigurement. Additionally, any dogs declared dangerous previously which escapes and kills another person may cause their owner to be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. Overall, dog bite criminal penalties can be quite serious if the damage to the victim is severe.

New York Dog Bite Lawyers and Attorneys

Whether you’ve been bitten or have a dog that’s bitten someone else, you need good legal representation. Dog bite plaintiffs and defense attorneys are critical if you want to win your case. Contact Sobo & Sobo by calling 855-468-7626 to get in touch with a NY dog bite lawyer today.

With years of experience dealing with these kinds of cases, they’re well-equipped to handle any personal injury cases, and answer any questions you may have.