According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than 4.5 million people get bitten by dogs each year. Moreover, nearly 1 in 5 victims who are bitten by dogs require medical attention. Like many accidents, no one expects a dog bite or attack to happen to them or a loved one. As the AVMA states, a dog’s breed, age or size does not determine whether or not it will bite; any dog can bite. This is why it is vital to know your rights, whether you’re on the receiving end of an attack or own a dog that was involved in the attack.
Under Connecticut’s dog bite statute 22-357, a dog owner or keeper is responsible for the injuries or property damage caused by the dog. While this statute seems pretty cut and dry, there are many important facts to know regarding who is liable.
Continue reading to learn more about Connecticut dog bite laws so you’re prepared if the time comes.
1. Connecticut Enforces a Strict Liability Statute for Dog Bites
Connecticut’s dog bite statute is considered a “strict liability statute,” which means that legal liability for damages or injury is placed on a party without having to prove negligence or fault. In other words, a victim does not need to prove that the dog’s keeper knew that the dog was vicious or that they are negligent. Under this statute, the dog’s keeper is liable for any physical injury or property damage caused by an owner’s dog.
Physical injury can include any damage sustained from falling to the ground or even from being startled. Even if an owner claims that they did not know that their dog was vicious or aggressive, they are still liable for damage, even if it is the dog’s first attack. If you can prove that a dog bit or attacked you, the dog owner is liable for your injuries unless they have a valid defense (such as proving trespass, tormenting the dog or some type of abuse occurred).
2. The Trespassing, Tormenting or Abusing Exception
It’s important to know that there are a few exceptions to Connecticut’s strict dog bite statute. The dog owner may not be liable if the dog bite injuries happened while someone was trespassing your property, tormenting or abusing the dog. It’s important to note, that the Connecticut Supreme Court stated this interpretation of trespassing:
“…the word ‘trespass’ as employed in the exception refers to something more serious than the mere technical trespass of entering upon the land of another where neither intent to damage nor damage, in fact, is involved, and where no acts are committed which would naturally arouse an ordinary dog to action to protect its owner’s property or family.” (Verrilli v. Damilowski, 1953)
In addition, children under the age of seven are presumed innocent of trespassing, tormenting or abusing the dog unless it can be proved otherwise. The burden of proof is on the defendant.
3. Landlords May Be Liable
There is a common law that can be applied to cases not brought under the statute. Under Connecticut’s common law, you must prove that you were injured from a dog that was known or should have been known to be vicious. In certain situations, someone other than the dog’s owner, such as a landlord, may be liable in a dog bite case. In this circumstance, if a landlord knows that there is a danger present from an animal and does not act on it (i.e. have the dog removed, alert property renters, etc.) then they may be sued for damages.
4. Joint Liability Involving Dog Attacks with More than One-Owner
In the event of a dog bite or attack involving two or more dogs and two or more owners, then the owners are jointly responsible for all damages. Statue 22-356 states that each dog owner is responsible for the entire amount of injury and property damages. To put it simply, if your dog was involved in an attack with someone else’s dog, it does not matter if their dog caused the majority of the damage; you are both jointly liable to pay for the damages.
However, the owners may be able to file a claim against one another in order to recover a share of the damages they had to pay.
5. The Dog Will Be Quarantined
After a dog bite or attack, Connecticut requires that the victim alerts the state, town or regional Animal Control of the attack. An Animal Control Officer (ACO) will visit the scene and bring the dog to a public pound, veterinary hospital or kennel, for a 14-day quarantine.
During this time, the ACO officer will examine the dog’s behavior and determine if it is a threat. They will also ensure that the dog does not have rabies. Under statute 22-358, the owner is responsible for all fees associated with the 14-day quarantine.
6. Connecticut Statute of Limitation for Dog Bites and Attacks
If you are the victim of a dog bite or attack, Connecticut Law allows you up to three years to file a claim. If you fail to file within this timeframe, you run the risk of losing the compensation you are rightfully owed. If you or a loved one is a victim of a dog attack, it is important to schedule a consultation with a reputable attorney. Based on your situation, an attorney can provide you with information regarding your legal options and how to receive the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a dog bite or attack, contact Robert L. Cavanaugh, Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney with more than 25 years of expertise, by clicking below or calling (203) 259-5400.