Owning a guard dog is a big responsibility.
One question you should always consider if you’re wanting a guard dog is what happens if a guard dog bites?
Well, there are risks involved such as legal liability, or animal control possibly being called. Your dog could even be labeled dangerous or worse—vicious.
The sense of safety that comes with having a guard dog could come at a price. Knowing what happens if a guard dog bites will help you be more informed of the risks.
So, let’s get into some possible scenarios, shall we?
What Happens If A Guard Dog Bites?
If your guard dog bites someone, what happens next depends on the circumstance.
If your dog bit someone trespassing or committing a crime, call the authorities. If the dog bites a passerby or a neighbor, seek or provide medical care immediately. Be sure to put your dog in a kennel or a crate as soon as possible. Try to stay calm, and keep them calm too!
Are You Liable If Your Dog Bites A Trespasser?
If your dog bites someone who is trespassing or on your property unlawfully, you’re usually not liable.
The trespasser wouldn’t be entitled to anything if they were on the property illegally in the first place!
Not even the upfront medical expenses you’d be responsible for if they were there legally.
What Happens when Animal Control Is Called for A Dog Bite?
If animal control gets involved, they will need to consider whether your dog should be labeled as dangerous or vicious. You don’t want your dog on either list, but the vicious list often means the dog can be put down.
A hearing may be called to make this decision. Be sure to take it seriously. Ignoring the subpoena or the summons won’t be good for you or your dog in the eyes of the court!
Can Someone Sue You If Your Dog Bites Them On Your Property?
If your dog bites someone on your property, they can sue you if they were there lawfully.
(As noted above, you’re usually not liable if your dog bites an intruder.) If it is a first-time bite, you will be liable for medical expenses. If the dog has no history of biting or attacking, you may not be liable for other expenses.
These rules vary from state to state.
Lawful visitors include more than your friends and family. Mail carriers, salespeople, and contractors are all part of that group. You have a duty to prevent these visitors from getting hurt on your property.
What Is The Average Dog Bite Settlement?
In 2019, it was determined that the average settlement for a dog bite was $44,760.
How much the settlement is could depend on:
- How bad the bite is.
- How long the bite takes to heal.
- Whether the owner was being negligent with their dog.
- And more.
Can A Dog Be Taken Away For Biting?
After a dog bite is reported, you may need to keep your dog inside. The authorities will need to decide if they think the dog is dangerous. A quarantine in case of rabies could also be required.
They may remove your dog from your property if you breach any conditions they give you. If they think the dog is a threat, that may make them remove the dog while they investigate.
Can Guard Dogs Be Put Down For Biting?
If that investigation finds your guard dog is vicious, they could be put down.
However, many states have a “one bite rule” that can mean life or death for your guard dog.
If they have no history of attacking, they may be rehabilitated. Vicious dogs can also be spared from being put to sleep if they have a curable disease that could have made them behave aggressively.
The “dangerous” dog label usually won’t mean they’ll need to be put down. You may be ordered to muzzle your dog in public or rehome the dog.
Can I Hit a Dog If It Attacks Me?
Self-defense against a dog attacking you is legal in some cases.
You can fight back only if the dog is attacking a person in a way that appears lethal. It is also legal to defend against a dog attacking your farm animals in a lethal manner.
It’s important to know that you can’t just hit a dog that attacked you in the past. It is only lawful if there is a threat of lethal injury at the moment.
Can You Kick A Dog If It Attacks Your Dog?
As previously mentioned, self-defense is acceptable if the dog is attacking a person or farm animal. The law around hurting a dog that’s hurting another dog is less clear.
If you do try to fight off the dog, you might get bitten. The dog’s owner may then be liable for some of your expenses.
What States Require Dog Bites To Be Reported?
Most of the 50 states do require dog bites to be reported. Who they’re reported to vary from state to state. Some reports go right to the police, and some go to animal control or the health authority.
The states that do not require bites to be reported (but recommend it) are:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Final Thoughts – What Do You Do If A Guard Dog Attacks You?
If a guard dog attacks you, try to stay calm. Being aggressive might make the dog angrier. Seek medical care and report the attack to the authorities. If the dog bites a passerby or a neighbor, seek or provide medical care immediately. Be sure to put your dog in a kennel or a crate as soon as possible.
Having the report on record might help you later if your injuries are worse than you first thought.
Depending on what happened leading up to the attack, the owner might be responsible for some of your expenses.
A lawsuit might be possible, but what state you’re in can affect that. Treat your injuries first and follow up later.
Looking For Watch Dog Guides?
If you’re looking for more guard dogs resources, consider checking out our other post on guard dogs.