A dog is a man's best friend, and cats will keep you company. But that doesn't mean they don't misbehave sometimes. If your pet gets out of control and bites or attacks someone, there might be a lawsuit in your future.
But how can you tell if the incident is your fault or if it's something you couldn't control?
Lawmakers have mostly figured out the answer to that question. While it might be better for everyone if dogs didn't bite and cats didn't scratch, animal-related injuries do happen, so it pays to know how to deal with it.
The first thing to know is that not all pets are treated equally. Laws generally consider domesticated animals to be less of a threat than "wild" pets such as snakes, sugar gliders, or exotic birds.
If your pet has attacked people before or is a breed that's known to be dangerous, you can be strictly liable for any injury it causes. It doesn't matter if you did your best to keep the animal in a cage, behind a fence, or away from humans. Strict liability means the injury caused by the pet is all that's need to prove fault.
Injuries caused by wild-animal pets are almost always treated as strict liability, even if the animal was not previously aggressive.
Many states have also adopted dog-bite laws that make a pet owner liable for any injury the animal causes, even if the animal isn't known to be aggressive. This kind of liability is general civil. You may be required to compensate the victim for injuries, but there won't be criminal charges.
While the law generally doesn't favor pet owners when pets cause injuries, that doesn't mean you have to give up. If you think you did everything you could to prevent an injury, contact a lawyer about defending yourself from unfair claims.
Dogs sometimes bite, and other pet attacks can happen, so take preventative steps by training your furry friend to stay calm in the presence of strangers. Good training generally leads to good behavior and loving attention for your pet, and may also work to keep lawsuits at bay.