This post was reviewed by Nicholas A. Battaglia, Esq., an attorney licensed in New York and New Jersey. He is owner and legal content writer for a law practice marketing firm and a realty group focusing on new construction builds in upstate New York, where he lives with his lovely wife and his counselor-at-bark Flora, a mixed breed rescue.
Beware of dog sign: is it a shield? The answer is not necessarily. But then, it’s worthy to note that every State has different laws and statutes that should be complied with. So, the best answer for this question is it depends.
Well, if you’re a plaintiff lawyer, I guess you would be happy if there’s this kind of sign because it mainly manifests the likeliness of vicious propensities. Yes, as an owner, you may be liable for damages due to dog bites. But this liability may be mitigated if there’s a warning to be aware of your dog.
Undoubtedly, one way you can protect your liability if your dog bites someone is placing beware of dog sign; this will serve as a warning to someone visiting that a dog is present within the vicinity. It also happens even if you think you have a docile dog and that it doesn’t bite just anyone.
But then, before you should be putting a warning sign out there, you should be cautious of some aspects of the law to avoid liability. Yes, it can warn others that there’s a dog on your property. However, there’s a different interpretation to the courts in case of a lawsuit.
Indication Of A Beware Of Dog Sign
If you have a beware of dog sign, it may indicate your awareness that your pet may bite someone. The court may view this sign as a way of letting others know that they literally have to beware of your dog as it shows aggressive behavior, although there’s no record showing that your dog acted viciously.
What if your dog has previously bitten someone before?
Well, if your pet has bitten a person before, the court may view the sign harshly. Especially if you just placed the sign after the incident. It’s usually an indication of your knowledge that your pet may manifest violent tendencies.
And this act may mean that you are required to take additional precautionary measures to enhance anyone’s protection (particularly if someone steps within your property).
Choosing signs consist of neutral words
Although you are not totally prohibited from putting beware of dog signs on your property, they can be used against you. However, if you think that it is strongly needed, no one can stop you from doing so.
But remember that you should be aware of the wordings you place on the sign. For instance, you can just say, “dog on the property.” Compare the difference when you put the words “beware of dogs.” The former wordings are less threatening than the latter, right?
The sign lets other people know the fact that you have a dog at home. And there’s no implication of the danger of your dog. Anyway, the mere fact that a person is warned of a dog’s presence can make him aware of the unpredictable threat.
Exceptions of provocations
So you can decide whether you’ll be placing the “beware of dog” sign, the law provides for provocation exceptions. For instance, if you’ve to set a “no trespassing” sign and a person trespasses resulting in a dog bite, there is a higher chance that you will not be held liable.
Remember, a person who trespasses already committed a crime. So, if your dog bites a person who violates a law, you may be given an exception to liability; and this is thanks to provocation statutes. Further, a jury may not find you liable if a dog was defending you from harm. Meaning if you and your dog acted reasonably to an intruder, a jury of your peers is more likely to absolve you of liability.
Furthermore, provocation on the part of the victim, such as hitting, abusing, kicking, or throwing things at the dog, can serve as a viable defense, freeing the accused from liability.
Legal rights to be on your property
If a person who enters a property has a legal right to it, you can be liable for the injury due to a dog bite. And this statement is true even if you haven’t invited that person into your property.
For example, a meter reader was chased and bitten by your dog. Given the fact that the meter reader has the right to be in your property at the time he was reading your meter, you will be liable thereof. And it is true even if you have posted a “beware of dog” sign.
If your dog has bitten someone, don’t hesitate to consult a dog bite lawyer. For sure, you will know your rights in accordance with the law in your area. Remember, different rules apply to other states; you may or may not be liable.
Protection Of Owners, Dogs, And Victims
Without a doubt, owning a dog is a good idea. Dogs can help improve your blood pressure, stress levels, social interaction, cholesterol, and entire well-being. And, of course, they are great companions. I know- you can relate to this! Most households in the US have dogs; they’re even part of the family.
Aside from being your best friend, a dog can give you and your property optimum protection. Dogs within your premises can get rid of trespassers and thieves. In a study, it was found out that dogs deter 95% of burglars and thieves.
However, it’s not always a good thing to have a dog. Anyway, everything has its pros and cons. You can have liability because of your dogs, such as if it bits someone or even something. You will most likely be sued for damages due to the injuries caused by your dog.
For this reason, it’s necessary to know how to mitigate your liability. One of the excellent ways to give yourself protection (and your dog as well) is to let known to others that a dog exists on your property. And you can do this by putting visible and clear signs.
But then, the protection of these signs varies in different states, so it’s essential to understand what law specifically applies to you.
In this section, let’s have a glimpse of some laws regarding dog signs according to states:
There’s no written law regarding your protection when you have signage. But, your liability can be mitigated as an owner; this happens if the victim is a trespasser (just like in other states). It may mean that not having a sign could be an advantage to your case.
According to Colorado Revised Statutes Title 13, even if a person suffered from injury (severe or not, much worse resulting in death), the dog owner may not be liable. This is true if the victim is on the dog owner’s property and it displays a clear and conspicuous mark or sign stating “beware of dog” or “no trespassing.”
Delaware Code provides the duties of a dog owner, as well as determines when a dog is dangerous. It states that if the dog is declared dangerous, it’s illicit for a person to keep the dog.
However, there’s an exception to this rule, one of the requisites of which requires the dog owner to display a warning sign (that a dangerous dog exists on the property. Furthermore, be it noted that the sign should be placed conspicuously; it should be legible and visible within 100 ft. or from the public highway (whichever is less).
It only shows that the sign is not actually to shield the owner from liability. However, the sign is necessary to provide you shield from even greater liability and criminal penalties as well. Failure to put such a sign could lead to greater liability and penalty, which you don’t want to incur, right?
The 2020 Florida Statutes states the liability of the dog owner for damages to the victim. The general rule is that the dog owner is liable for the dog bite, whether the victim is a public or private place. And it is true regardless of the dog’s prior viciousness or knowledge of the owner of such.
However, the good thing is that the owner’s liability is reduced when the victim himself is negligent, such that this negligence on his part is the proximate cause of the bite.
Furthermore, the owner has no liability (except if a.] the victim is below six years old; or b] proximate cause due to owner’s omission or negligence.) if, during the incident, there’s a sign displayed in a prominent place saying “Bad Dog” and the likes.
Well, the “beware of dog” sign is ubiquitous. But come to think of the consequences whenever your dog actually bites someone. Perhaps, it’s suggested to give a warning sign with neutral wordings such as “no trespassing” or “dog on-premises.”
The question is whether or not you need a beware of dog sign. Well, here’s the thing: all dogs may be considered dangerous. We can never tell which dog is more dangerous. The fact is that any dog can bite a person if it feels threatened. In Mississippi, their law also cites what dangerous dogs are.
The following are considered dangerous dogs according to the House Bill 1261 Mississippi:
- Any pit bull (pure or mixed) of American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, American bulldog, or Staffordshire bull terrier;
- Any breed of dog showing a tendency, propensity, or tendency to attack (whether attempted or consummated) even if unprovoked;
- Any dog that bites when not provoked, causing injury to another (person or domestic animal) on a private or public place;
- Any dog chasing another in a terrorizing manner and possesses an attitude of attack; whether it be in a private or public place; or
- Any dog owner or trained for dogfighting.
If your dog possesses either of these characteristics, you may be required to do a specific act. Under the Mississippi Regulation of Dangerous Dog Act, you have to take measures to avoid ramifications. In this case, you may need to post a sign in a prominent place. You can have the “beware of dangerous dog” sign.
However, your obligation doesn’t just end there. You also need to do the following:
- Ensure that your dog is confined on your premises;
- Place a durable leash with a length not more than three feet; in case you leave your property, the dog should be muzzled;
- The leash shall never be tethered to an inanimate object. Unless, such object is situated in a secured closure; and
- The dog should never be kept in an area where the dog can escape; for instance, on the patio or porch.
What may be your liability in case your dog bites someone? In Washington State, dog bite laws are stringent. Here are just a few things you should note when you’re living in this place:
- Putting a “beware of dog” sign or the likes may be used to prove the aggressive nature of your dog;
- To eliminate liability, you (as the dog owner) must show that the one who’s bitten was not legally on your property;
- Generally, the sign can be a warning to anyone to avoid provoking the vicious dog; it means that the sign could not get rid of your liability as an owner when the dog attacks.
Washington dog bite law is clear that you should be responsible for your dog if you’re a dog owner. Anyway, even if there’s no law stating the same, common sense tells us so. So, if your dog has caused a severe injury to a person or domestic animal before, you are necessitated to put a manifest sign on your property.
You are also needed to give a warning symbol for children to be aware of the dangerous dog. Furthermore, if a person is attacked while legally on your property and the dog bites him, the law on dog bite applies. There’s a significant distinction when your dog has a vicious behavior in the past.
Do I Need A Dog Bite Lawyer?
I guess it’s not your utmost priority to hire a lawyer after your dog bite injury. At times, it can be confusing and frustrating to victims. However, I tell you, you need legal aid to consult your case.
Who knows? You can seek compensation. It matters a lot, not just to set off your expenses but also for dog owners to be more cautious. Also, it serves as a warning for them to be responsible to their pets.
On the other hand, if you’re the dog owner, you may generally be held liable. But it’s not always the case. Aside from your obligations, you have the right. And these rights can adequately be addressed with the help of a dog bite lawyer. Who knows? You are actually not liable for the injury caused by your dog.
In case you are the owner or the victim of the dog, you certainly need a dog bite lawyer. Know your rights; maybe you can be compensated for the damages incurred due to a dog bite. Or perhaps, you may be excused from liability, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Prevention Of Dog Bites
In the United States alone, the annual estimated count of dog bites is 4.5 million. Just come to imagine how many people were bitten in just a year and one country. How much more if we count the number of dog bites in the entire world? And sadly, those who are fragile and helpless are the victims of dog bites.
Children and elders consist of the majority. Out of millions, around 800,000 require medical attention; about 15 to 20 resulted in mortality. That’s why it’s needed for these age groups to know the ways in preventing dog bites. As dog owners, you are also responsible for preventing dog bites from happening.
In this section, I’ve included some ways for you to prevent dog bites when interacting with dogs. Without further ado, let’s start.
Dogs may be friendly at times, but when interacting with them, you should take note of the following:
Step #1. Know the warning signs of dog bites
Even if dogs are animals, they also know how to communicate with us. Like us, they manifest body language; we can tell if they’re anxious, tense, or afraid. In these situations, they will most likely bite. The best thing you should do is not to approach or make eye contact with the dog.
Doing so may lead it to attack you as it is some defense. Here are some of the signs that your dog is stressed:
- Lips licking
- Tongue flicking
- Body is tenses
- Ears are flattened
- Tail is stiff
- The tail is erect while slowly wagging it back and forth
- Teeth baring
Step #2. Try to let the dog owner introduce you to the dog
Take note that not all dogs you encounter may want to bite you. Perhaps, the best way for you to be familiar with the dog is to allow the dog owner to introduce you to it. Before touching the dog, let it investigate you first, such as by allowing it to smell your hands.
Here are the ways on how to do this:
- Hold your hands in a cup while you are introduced to a smaller dog.
- If it’s your first time introducing yourself to each other, don’t reach over its head first. Such action may be perceived as a threat, leading to bite.
- Try to let your hands feel more relaxed in front of the dog.
- Since a dog is inherently curious, it may approach you slowly or try to sniff you. Don’t worry; this behavior is not threatening. If you don’t allow a dog to investigate but touched it, it may bite you for self-defense.
- It’s not a good idea to surprise a dog; that means you can’t touch it, especially if it’s not expecting it.
Step #3. Don’t go near an aggressive dog
This step is simple. But getting away from a dog that shows aggressive behavior doesn’t mean that you should run. Go slowly. And don’t stare at its eyes. You can also place a durable barrier between you and the aggressive dog while slowly going away to somewhere safer.
Take note of the following:
Eye contact may be a threat to an anxious dog.
Don’t run; this is true no matter what happens. It’s an instinct for dogs to chase someone or something they consider prey. If you run, their instinct will trigger.
Even if a dog attack is imminent, it’s best not to move. You can command, in your firmest voice, to “go home!” It doesn’t mean, however, that you can shout on it. Doing so can lead to a more anxious dog. Just stand very still, okay?
Do you want to become less interesting to dogs? Try acting like a tree. The branches are your hands; put them in front of you. The roots are your feet; lower them and stay calm and still. Wait until the dog goes away from you.
Step #4. Avoiding bite of an attacking dog
If the dog appears as if it will attack you, make sure to avoid its teeth. Here’s what you can do:
- Put something in the dog’s path like your jacket, purse, or backpack;
- If you’re knocked down, curl yourself like a tight ball. Make sure to cover your head, ears, and neck with your arms. These parts should be protected to lessen serious harm.
It’s A Wrap!
Beware of dog sign: is it a shield? The answer may depend on every State. Some states require you to put a dog sign to warn other people of dangerous dogs within the premises. In contrast, other states don’t require you to put a sign without compromising your liability.
Anyway, the best thing that you should do is to be cautious and know some ways on how to prevent dog bites. As an owner, you should be responsible for your dog. Don’t let them go out if you know that they have tendencies. And for others, you should be careful always.
Remember this: dogs are unpredictable, no matter how friendly they are.