Who doesn’t love a good dog that plays, gives tail wags when greeting you at the door, and curls up next to you on the sofa at night? Most Americans do, but the fact remains that dogs can be unpredictable. They can and do bite people, oftentimes unexpectedly. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, and 800,000 of those bites result in medical care. Nearly all states have “dog bite laws” in place to compensate injured parties. Under Kentucky law, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries their dogs cause. Here's what you should know about dog bite laws in the Bluegrass State, including tips for keeping yourself, your furry friends, and others safe.

Strict Liability: Understanding What Kentucky Dog Bite Laws Mean for You and Your Pet

Kentucky dog bite laws are governed by Kentucky Revised Statutes (Title XXI, Agriculture and Animals: Section 258.235), which hold owners strictly liable for any injury caused by a biting dog. The statute is clear: “Any owner whose dog is found to have caused damage to a person, livestock, or other property shall be responsible for that damage.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you consider yourself the most responsible of dog owners; you can still be held liable if your dog bites an unsuspecting visitor’s leg or hand.

Additionally, if your dog bites someone and the court rules that your pet is "vicious," your ownership responsibilities could change drastically. For example, you may have to follow strict guidelines to keep your dog. Under certain circumstances, the court may order a dog it deems dangerous to be put down. Don't risk it. Follow steps for responsible, safe dog ownership.

It's Not Just Big Dogs or Small Dogs; It's All Dogs

Most of us are aware of the types of dogs considered “dangerous” or “vicious." They include the larger, muscular, beautiful, and, yes, sometimes scary-looking breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepards, and Doberman Pinschers. We'll collectively refer to these dogs as "Brutus." While you often hear from people who own these breeds that they are only as aggressive as they're trained to be -- or that their pet has been raised like a member of the family and would never hurt anyone -- these kinds of dogs can and do cause severe injuries. You may have seen social media stories and pictures of Brutus quietly and protectively napping with the family toddler. That's all well and good, but it's vital not to forget that Brutus is still an animal with powerful jaws, sharp teeth, and a sometimes aggressive nature. However, large dogs aren't the only canines that require careful supervision. The cute toy poodles with the little pink bows in their hair? If you've ever had the yapping jaws of a sharp-toothed little Fifi chomping at your heels, you probably know their bites can cause injury and be just as traumatizing. No matter what breed of dog you own, taking steps to protect them -- and protect others from them -- is essential.

Protecting Your Dog

Dog bite injuries are a serious matter, not only for the injured party but for the owner of the offending dog as well. What is a dog owner to do? Make sure you know the laws in your state concerning dog ownership and your responsibility. If you can't resist owning the "dangerous" Brutus-type dogs, consider purchasing dog liability insurance, a special policy allowing you to file a claim to cover the cost of a dog bite situation. Finally, regardless of whether your four-legged family member is a Brutus or a Fifi, as a responsible dog owner, taking the following precautions is key. Ensure your dogs are:

  • Up-to-date on all vaccinations
  • Properly trained and socialized
  • Under your control
  • Safely and securely contained (whether in your home, your backyard, or public areas such as sidewalks, parks, or the veterinarian's office)
  • Leashed in public

Dog bites may seem like something you don't have to worry about unless it happens. However, when it comes to dog bites and Kentucky's strict liability laws, the adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," rings true.

Do you have questions about Kentucky's dog bite laws? At Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey, our knowledgeable central Kentucky attorneys have answers.

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