Leash Law Liability

Messages
460
Location
Southeast
Hey I have a 75/80 pound Yellow Lab that is VERY protective of my girlfriend, her children, and myself. We do not have a fenced in yard as we are currently renting, but have the dog on a leash every time she needs to go outside. We have posted multiple no trespassing, beware of dog signs in both the front and back yards. I have locked the gate that leads from the front to the back yard, posted a no trespassing sign and beware of dog sign on this gate as well. I have also posted a no soliciting sign on the front door also (that nobody looks at and they act surprised when my dog bears her teeth to them at the door). Now we do love her being protective, and believe it or not she is extremely loving to both of our families also. My thing is I want to know what needs to be done, in case a child (which is my biggest fear) or any other party were to walk in our yard after these signs were posted and if something were to happen while she was on the leash around the posted signs. What kind of liability would I be looking at? Also if someone were to break in and she were to tear them up defending the property and it's occupents I want to make sure that there would be no liability there as well. The county I live in is Santa Rosa in Florida. Getting rid of the dog is NOT an option and we are working with her on this as well. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
 
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36,528
Location
ME
On a leash, like unattended on a zip run all day? You can be liable for an "attractive nuisance" on your yard like a swimming pool, for which you need a fence, not just signs. I'm interested as well if a dog counts. Your house is your castle so you're safe there, in Florida.
 

JOD

Messages
3,577
Location
PNW/WA
I'm confused about the part where a child could "come up to the dog while it's on a leash". Do you mean the dog is tethered, unattended--or that you're standing there with the dog on a leash? In either case, you're potentially liable. If the latter, you'll need to muzzle the dog in public if you can't trust her in that situation, or just make sure that you can control her completely under all circumstances. If the former, well--I would simply say that tethering a dog who is extremely territorial/guarding is a really, really bad idea. That's how bad things happen. This is one of the most common causes of serious dog bites, so don't do it--find an alternative to get your dog out of the house (dog walker, etc). I lived for many years with a dog of very similar temperament, and I'll admit that this part of his personality was difficult to manage. He was an awesome dog, but this can be a tough thing. You're always best to err on the side of caution, both for your sake and for the sake of the dog.
 
Messages
3,252
Location
Florida
You're worried about someone coming onto your property, ignoring all posted signs, getting past your gate/fences, and going into your back yard? If this happened to me, they'd be worried about me shooting at them. Obviously not a child, but why would a child be unattended and wandering around on people's properties? Wouldn't the child's guardian be charged with neglect?
 
Messages
8,111
Location
MI
That's naive to think that way Bigmike. Stuff "just happens", sometimes under the best of care. Certainly talk to your insurance company and make sure your renter's insurance covers this possibility. Our renter's insurance covered this. Just recently a complete stranger walked INTO our home without knocking and our very protective bulldog went after him. My wife got the man out of the house and he stated he had no bites or injuries. Hopefully that is the end of this incident. He was a very old man and was confused, thinking he was going into someone else's house. Scary.
 

Rtstrider

Thread starter
Messages
460
Location
Southeast
But do the posted signs and being in attendance on the property with posted signs immediately take all liability away from you and place it on the other parties?
 
Messages
2,820
Location
Southeast Alabama
Signs, warnings, no trespassing, fence, etc. Small children may not read or understand the warnings. Will not stop older - other children or folks either. That is why we have home owners insurance. Signs and warnings will not stand up in court.
 
Messages
5,153
Location
MW
You will probably be liable for whatever your dog does regardless of the signs, fences or any other measures you take. It's best to eliminate the risk and have a little redundancy in doing so.
 

Al

Messages
19,256
Location
Elizabethtown, Pa
Originally Posted By: SrDriver
Signs and warnings will not stand up in court.
Quoted for truth. I am missing something. You said the dog is under a leash when she is out..so why are you worried that the dog will hurt someone when she is under leash? If the dog tears someone apart inside the house you are probably liable unless that person is attacking you and you have a castle doctrine law. Many children have been killed/mauled by a "friendly", "loving" dog.
 
Messages
723
Location
wichita kansas
The main thing is to check with you insurance and landlord about the dog. Some cities have pretty strict codes on having certain dogs. The signs are a start, but on the other hand my Dad was told that having these signs on his property showed that he was aware that he had a dangerous dog on the property and that would go against him if sued. Seemed to me that he was burned either way in that case. Either way I'd load up on liability insurance, just in case.
 
Messages
3,252
Location
Florida
Originally Posted By: doitmyself
That's naive to think that way Bigmike. Stuff "just happens", sometimes under the best of care. Certainly talk to your insurance company and make sure your renter's insurance covers this possibility. Our renter's insurance covered this. Just recently a complete stranger walked INTO our home without knocking and our very protective bulldog went after him. My wife got the man out of the house and he stated he had no bites or injuries. Hopefully that is the end of this incident. He was a very old man and was confused, thinking he was going into someone else's house. Scary.
Again, if someone is on my property, they are at my mercy. It's not naive to EXPECT parents to keep track of their children wandering around the neighborhood. It's certainly not my responsibility for their child's safety. I'd be wondering why someone doesn't get charged with trespassing, breaking and entering, or vandalism if they managed to come onto someone's property. Why would a dog owner worry about this? Dogs are seen at junkyards all the time around here. You jump the fence, you get bit, you deserve it.
 
Messages
723
Location
wichita kansas
Sorry Big Mike but with those assumptions you are leaving yourself wide open in the case of anything happening. Children have a tendency to go even when the parents are trying to watch them. It is your responsibility to try to not make it easy for a child to enter your property if you have a danger there. Children don't read signs. People do get charged, but on the other hand in most states that comes with some boundries. It doesn't give a license to do something just because somebody goes on your property.
 

Rtstrider

Thread starter
Messages
460
Location
Southeast
Yeah see I don't mind if they come on our property as we do live in a decent neighborhood. I'm just trying to prevent a bad situation from happening. But if she were to attack one of the kids that go through the yard, her fault or not, I would have to put her down. Even if it's not required. Trying to be a RESPONSIBLE dog owner and treat the situation like we do our cars here at BITOG. Taking preventative measures to keep a bad situation from happening.
 

Al

Messages
19,256
Location
Elizabethtown, Pa
Originally Posted By: bigmike
Again, if someone is on my property, they are at my mercy.
Unless you are directly threatened or your property is being vandalized , any disproportional force on your part (or any in some states) puts your wallet at "their" mercy.
Quote:
It's not naive to EXPECT parents to keep track of their children wandering around the neighborhood. It's certainly not my responsibility for their child's safety.
Its not your responsibility to keep track of their kids, but it is your responsibility not to harm them except as per above
Quote:
I'd be wondering why someone doesn't get charged with trespassing, breaking and entering, or vandalism if they managed to come onto someone's property. Why would a dog owner worry about this?
They could get charged with trespass or whatever but again you are not the police/court.
Quote:
Dogs are seen at junkyards all the time around here. You jump the fence, you get bit, you deserve it.
The junkyard dog could be stroyed along with its owners bank account. BTW I don't disagree with your feelings. Just saying in today's litigious America its not gonna fly. While I don't disagree with your post
 
Messages
43,676
Location
'Stralia
Originally Posted By: bigmike
Again, if someone is on my property, they are at my mercy. It's not naive to EXPECT parents to keep track of their children wandering around the neighborhood. It's certainly not my responsibility for their child's safety. I'd be wondering why someone doesn't get charged with trespassing, breaking and entering, or vandalism if they managed to come onto someone's property. Why would a dog owner worry about this? Dogs are seen at junkyards all the time around here. You jump the fence, you get bit, you deserve it.
Doesn't cut it. Good example is a deep excavation (like digging a pool) on your property still requires a man proof fence, just in case a child, elderly, emergency worker, or just plain trespasser gets in and injured. There's some more sense down here, wish shared liability in incidents...the drunk entering your property is deemed to share responsibility with the property owner "proportionally" to the injuries and the cause...if he trips and falls on a concrete path is one outcome, if his foot is lodged in a bear-trap, and he falls into the deep end of your empty swimming pool is another outcome for the property owner and insurer. And there have been cases where the injured party was charged with trespass. The power industry down here have "coached" Greenpeace on what's "safe" and unsafe to chain themselves to. Obviously not because they support trespassers and protests against our industry, but because they saw a liability risk, and have passed it back to the protesting organisation to as large an extent as possible.
 
Messages
6,367
Location
Midwest
As a dog owner, you're responsible for the actions of your dog. The only scenario that I can see that might preclude that is if you're actually being attacked by someone and the dog is protecting you. But if your dog bites someone, on or off your property, you are responsible. You need to get both you and that dog properly trained-now. A protective dog is a good thing-a dog that you can't and don't trust (as your post clearly indicates) is dangerous and irresponsible. We have had therapy dogs for many years, we currently have two beagles. While they're very well trained and beagles generally are not known for biting, we understand that if our dogs were to ever bite or nip someone there could be legal action, and we're insured to cover it if something happens. Not only are we insured, but we work with them daily to make sure we have full control and they know who's in charge. Should either give us the slightest indication that we couldn't trust them they'd be finished as therapy dogs. After 20+ years of having therapy dogs we've never reached that point, but I'm under no illusion that it isn't possible someday. And the reason we're insured and careful is because my wife has seen similar cases to yours at her legal firm in the past. Like the "friendly" rottweiler that killed a 5 year old little boy a dozen years or so ago. The boy just mistakenly opened a gate-he was in an area where all the homes look similar and thought he was going into his grandmothers back yard. Instead he was two doors down at the house with the "friendly" dog when the "friendly" dog attacked and killed him. He was too young to notice the "Beware of Dog" sign. The owner of the rottweiler ended up bankrupt and eventually tried to take his own life. I didn't see the photos of the scene, but my wife had to look at them and it gave her nightmares for a very long time.
 
Messages
200
Location
NV
Signs do not protect anyone of liability. Your dog sounds like a ticking time-bomb. Perhaps it time for some training or a new dog if you're really worried about it. I've sat through a few dog bites cases and every time the owner got nailed. If your dog did cosmetic/life altering damage you could find yourself in the poorhouse for the rest of your life, I've seen it happen.
 
Messages
6,930
Location
NH
I agree with the others that you absolutely need to get insurance to cover you in case the dog bites someone. As said the signs just don't cut it. Make absolutely sure your homeowners/renters policy covers you if the dog bites someone. Many companies require you to let them know you have a dog, the breed, age, sex, etc... before you are covered as well. Don't just assume your insurance will cover you because you have insurance. Call and make sure they know you have THIS specific dog. An aggressive Lab is not normal. Be very careful with that dog! I can see that you care about the dog( as do I my Lab's - they are my kids )BUT the one thing that no person should EVER tolerate and put up with is an aggressive dog. Even if the dog is loving and friendly with you if they show aggression to others someday it could be towards you as well. It is an animal that has already shown aggression and it could turn on you, your wife, kids, etc... in half a heart beat. Guard dogs, Police dogs, etc... are one thing. Aggressive and overly protective family pets are a different thing. They are dangerous and are a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. If your dog is showing aggression whenever anyone comes near that is a very bad thing! Don't let kids near it. Not even your own if you have any. At the least make sure no kids go near the dog while it is eating or in possession of any toys/bones/etc... it has. Don't let any kids rough house with the dog or play fetch with it either. You are going to have to be constantly vigilant to be sure the dog does not bite someone. Don't be fooled for a second and think the dog wouldn't turn on you, your wife, kids, etc... in the right situation. You can be financially ruined by that if the dog bites someone who decides to sue you. The fact you know the dog is aggressive and are keeping her anyway will actually work against you if she does bite someone. Get it fixed and fast or as hard as it is the dog should be put down before she does bite someone. Your dog would not be adoptable for example if it was at the SPCA and showed aggression like that and it couldn't be corrected rapidly. That should tell you how serious this is... Good luck and be very careful.
 
Messages
1,344
Location
Clinton Twp. MI
My neighbor who has two large dogs told me his insurance agent advised against posting beware of dog signs. It was explained that by posting this it could be made to look in court as if you were aware the dogs were a threat to others yet continued to keep this "hazard" on your property.
 
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