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How far is a dog’s liability leash?

A landlord is normally not responsible if someone is injured by a tenant’s dog where the injury — such as a dog bite — takes place off of the landlord’s property. There is an exception to this legal rule, however.

The owner or person who controls a premises may be held liable for dog bites occurring on the property if the owner knew about the dog’s vicious propensities. The owner must also control the premises or otherwise possess the capability to remove or confine the animal.

For example, a New York appellate court ruled in 2010 that a property owner could be held liable for a dog bite by a tenant’s dog after the dog escaped through a broken and defective fence and bit a neighbor on that person’s porch. The defendant knew about the broken fence, the tenant’s ownership of two dogs, received complaints about the dogs’ loud barking and lunging at people through holes in the fence, and knew that the one of the dogs earlier escaped.

Three years later, a state appellate court ruled that the owner of a construction site could be held responsible for injuries inflicted by his night watchman’s dog who escaped and a bit a person on a public sidewalk near the site. The owner received no complaints about the dog, was unaware of any earlier incidents and always observed the dog being friendly and well-trained. However, a witness said that the property owner saw the dog bite an electrician at the construction site one month earlier and received notification about that earlier incident.

These types of premises liability issues often require legal advice — which this blog post cannot give — to determine whether a landlord or property owner may be held liable for serious injuries. Propmpt legal assistance can help protect a victim’s rights during settlement negotiations and in legal proceedings.

Source: Justia U.S. Law, Champ-Doran v. Lewis, 69 A.D.3d 1101, 892 N.Y.S.2d 665 (2010),” accessed on March 5, 2015