Attacked by a dog, what are your rights?

  • Play

Video by

Attacked by a dog, what are your rights?

CREATED Mar 8, 2012

After an elderly woman was attacked by two dogs, 9 On Your Side viewers want to know if they're protected?

Reporter: Tammy Vo

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The reality is that dog attacks can happen to anyone, anywhere and by any breed of dog. But the recent attack by two pit bulls in the Tucson area has left an elderly woman facing serious injuries and mounting medical bills. The dog's owner claims that he wants to pay for the costs, but that isn't always the case.

If attacked, what options does the victim of a dog attack have?

When it comes to hospital or veterinary bills, the victim is responsible. Once they're recovered, they can attempt to take the dog's owner to civil court, but would have to hire an attorney which can be expensive. If law enforcement decides to pursue criminal charges, the victim can try to recover those costs through restitution.

What kind of pentalties can owners face if their dog attacks?

Across the country, hundreds of cities have passed different laws pertaining to vicious dogs. In Arizona last year, Richard and Sally Andrade helped pass Fabian's Law after their dog was killed by a pit bull while out on a walk. Now, owners of aggressive dogs must control the dog and keep it from escaping. If it doesn't, it's a misdemeanor and if a dog has a known history of biting and attacks someone, it's now a felony.

In Tucson, there is a city ordinance about dogs that have been declared vicious. Their owners may be ordered to keep the dog locked up, post signs and carry liability insurance so that if the dog bites, the damage it caused may be covered.


In Ohio for the past twenty years, the law defined pit bulls as "inherently vicious", forcing their owners to lock them up and carry $100,000 in liability insurance according to the Lucas County Dog Warden. That has since been reversed.

In Virginia, lawmakers have taken their dog laws to another level. According to the Virginia State Crime Commission, if an aggressive dog kills someone it's owner can be found guilty of manslaughter. Even if the owner didn't train the dog to be mean they can be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter if they were negligent.

It can be difficult to declare a dog vicious or dangerous, which has to be done by officers and the courts. Victims of dog bites don't always want to go through that process. Pima County Animal Control says that if a dog bites and you're concerned, report it to their office. That way they have a record on the dog so that if it acts up again they'll have more legal control of the dog's fate.