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What is the responsibility for a roomate’s dog?

On behalf of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, P.C. in Premises Liability on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Dog owners in New York are responsible for injuries inflicted by their dogs in a premises liability case if they were aware or should have been aware of the animal’s vicious propensity. These include an earlier attack, the dog’s tendency to growl, snap, or bare its teeth, how the dog was restrained and a tendency to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm. However, roommates and other co-tenants may also be held strictly liable for injuries if that person harbors or keeps the animal and also knows of thesepropensities.

A person harbors a dog by making it part of their household even if they do not assume control over the animal. If the dog is kept within a home on a consistent basis, those homeowners may be harboring the dog if they allow it to reside there and participate in its care.

Earlier this month, a New York appellate court ruled that co-tenants in a leased premises could be strictly liable for a vicious dog attack even if the dog is owned by another cotenant. According to the court, there must be evidence that the co-tenants participated in the dog’s care in their household to support a finding that they joined with the dog’s owner in harboring these animals.

In that case, the co-tenant could be held liable for an attack by three dogs owned by their cotenant on a four-year-old infant. Although the cotenants did not have primary responsibility for the dogs, they were lessees of the premises where the dogs freely roamed, sometimes cleaned up after them, fed them and let them outside. The cotenants did not restrain the dogs when their owner was not home.

Dog bites can cause serious injuries requiring compensation. However, proving particular facts may be vital. Prompt legal assistance should be sought to help assure that a victim’s rights are protected.