How many times have you witnessed a young child walk up to a dog and start petting it? The dog is happy, the child is happy, and everyone’s day just got a bit brighter. But that’s not how every interaction ends. Far too common have I seen the results of an encounter with a dog go wrong.
The Center of Disease Control conducted a study in 2001 and found that dog bites occur every 75 seconds in the United States. This results in over 1,000 people each day needing emergency medical care to treat these injuries. 64.9% of these victims are children under the age of 4. The victims of severe dog attacks often suffer acute damage requiring multiple procedures including reconstructive surgery, tissue expansion, and scar diminishment.
Texas Dog Bite Law
Texas is a one bite rule state. Many people incorrectly assume that the one bite rule means that all dogs get a “free bite.” This is wrong. The rule to recover damages for a dog bite, an injured person must show that: 1) the dog's owner knew the dog had bitten someone before or had acted aggressively in the past, or 2) the dog's owner was negligent in controlling the dog or preventing the bite from occurring, and that negligence caused the person’s injuries.
The rule does provide significant protection for dog owners when the dog bites someone for the first time, but allows an alternative method to hold the dog owner responsible. If the owner had knowledge that the dog acted aggressively in the past, the owner can still be held responsible for damage the dog inflicted even if it was the first time the dog bit someone.
Many other states follow strict liability laws. This means a dog’s owner does not have to be aware the dog was dangerous, nor does the owner have to act negligent when handling the dog to be held liable for any damage. Unfortunately, Texas does not follow this theory of liability.
It is important to remember that all dogs are capable of biting or inflicting injury to a person. Texas does not list a specific breed of dog as dangerous, but insurers often charge higher premiums for Pit bull-type breeds, Boxers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers.
When you see a dog that is unfamiliar to you, be aware that the dog does not know you. You should proceed with caution when approaching any dog for the first time. If the dog’s owner is present, always ask the owner before making physical contact with the dog.