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What is a "vicious propensity"?

Under New York Law, a victim of a domestic animal attack (including dog bites) can recover against the owner of the animal only if the owner had notice that the animal had previously shown “vicious propensities.”

The bad news is that the owner cannot be sued for simple negligence – for example for allowing the dog to run around a party with children present. The good news, however, is that the owner can be strictly liable (or, essentially, unable to present a defense to the case) if in fact the owner was aware that the dog had a tendency to do something vicious.

So what is a “vicious propensity”? Well, in some cases courts have found that constant aggressive barking at the mailman was vicious. More often, however, viciousness can be established by showing that the animal had previously bitten, or attempted to bite, another person. This can be shown through testimony of other neighbors, vet records, or other information that may be learned through a thorough investigation.

Most people would identify some breeds of dogs as being more "vicious" than others, but you will still need to show that the dog in question, rather than the breed generally, is vicious.  For this reason investigation into the animal in question is absolutely critical. 

Dog bite injuries may seem straightforward, but given their tendency to cause severe damage to the victim, they should not be taken lightly.  Pet owners (similar to parents) tend to be defensive when it comes to their pets, so it is unlikely that they will help against their own self interest.

If you have questions about an animal attack or dog bite contact us today.

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