Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite in New York? | O’Connor and Partners, PLLC

According to a report by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), there are approximately 1.1 million pets in the city, roughly 600,000 of which are dogs. If you own a dog or interact with them while outside or in someone’s home, it’s important to understand dog bite laws in New York.

Unfortunately, the average age of dog bite victims is between five and nine years old, and many of these attacks are made by dogs the victim already knows. Whether a dog bite victim knows his or her attacker or not, anyone who has been attacked by a dog needs to know their rights.

The Kingston dog bite lawyers at O’Connor & Partners, PLLC have extensive knowledge in a wide range of personal injury cases, including dog attacks. We are committed to helping our clients recover from these difficult injuries by pursuing the maximum compensation they need and deserve to move forward with their lives.

Can you sue after being bitten by a dog in New York? The answer is: It depends.

What Is New York’s Dog Bite Law?

Under New York law, regardless of a dog’s history of previous attacks or aggressive behavior, dog owners may be held liable if their dog attacks someone. However, the circumstances surrounding the dog bite are considered.

Strict Liability Vs. The “One Bite” Rule

In New York, dog bite cases are handled under a combination of strict liability and negligence. The owner or custodian of a dog is strictly liable for medical bills that result from an injury caused by his or her dog, even if he or she used reasonable care to restrain the pet.

For all other expenses related to the dog bite injury, the concept of negligence is followed, meaning the dog’s owner is only responsible if he or she neglected to use reasonable care to warn others about the dog’s dangerous potential or protect others from harm. This rule of negligence is sometimes referred to as the “one-bite” rule because owners who know their pet has acted aggressively or attacked others in the past must use reasonable care to warn others about the danger. 

Negligence must be proven in order to collect damages beyond medical bills in New York.

When Can I Sue a Dog Owner for an Attack?

In nearly every situation involving dog-owner liability, you must prove that the owner had knowledge of their pet’s prior behavior and risk of attack. Examples of when a dog owner may be held liable for a dog bite include:

  • If there are previous complaints: A dog owner may be held liable if others have issued complaints about the dog’s vicious behavior, especially if the animal is frequently violent or has bitten before.
  • If the dog has been trained to attack: A pet owner will likely be held responsible for damages caused by an animal who has been trained to attack because the owner is fully aware that his or her dog is dangerous and capable of violence.
  • If the dog tends to jump on others: When owners know that their dogs frequently jump on people, it is their duty to prevent their pets from jumping up and knocking others over.
  • If the dog has displayed previous frightening, vicious behavior: This can include situations in which a dog chases others to the point where they are frightened, or barks viciously from behind a fence as though it is willing to attack.
  • If the dog has attacked before: This falls under the one-bite rule; it proves that the owner knew his or her animal has bitten before.

When May an Owner Not Be Liable for a Dog Attack?

There are situations in which a dog owner may not be held liable for an attack, including the following examples:

  • If the victim provoked the attack: If the victim attempted to assault the dog or its owner, or otherwise demonstrated behavior that legitimately provoked the dog to attack, the owner may not be found negligent.
  • If the victim was trespassing: Even if a dog has bitten before, an owner may not be held liable for attacks made on individuals who are on their property without consent.
  • If the dog has never bitten before (to the owner’s knowledge): Under the one-bite rule, owners are not liable for attacks if the owner has no knowledge whatsoever that a dog has bitten before.

Contact a Kingston Dog Bite Lawyer Today

If you were bitten by a dog in New York, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced dog bite lawyer as quickly as possible. New York law stipulates that you have only three years from the date of your injury in which to file a lawsuit against the negligent pet owner. It is crucial to begin the legal process as soon as possible to ensure you can present your most compelling case.

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If you were bitten or attacked by a dog in NY, contact O’Connor & Partners, PLLC today online or at (845) 303-8777 for a free initial consultation. We proudly serve clients in Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and other New York areas.


by O'Connor & Partners, PLLC
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Dog Bite Injuries