Animal and Dog Law

Owners are often responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, but legal standards vary by state.

Abusing or neglecting an animal may lead to criminal penalties and may even support a felony charge.

A pet is usually assigned to a spouse as property, but some states award pet custody and visitation.

A pet owner can ensure that their pet receives proper care and support after the owner’s death.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is strict liability for a dog bite?
    Strict liability for a dog bite means that the owner of the dog must pay compensation for injuries caused by the bite even if they did not know that the dog was likely to bite. Strict liability also may apply to attacks by dogs that do not involve bites, although some states limit strict liability to bites.
  • Am I liable to someone who taunted my dog if it bit them?
    You generally will not be liable to someone who taunted or otherwise provoked your dog if it bit them as a result. However, some situations involving children bitten by dogs may lead to liability even if the child provoked the dog.
  • How do I prevent my dog from being designated as dangerous?
    You can prevent your dog from being designated as dangerous by showing at an administrative hearing that it does not pose a threat. You might get a hearing before your dog is designated as dangerous, or you might need to challenge a preliminary dangerous dog designation.
  • Who gets the pet in my divorce?
    If a pet is the separate property of one spouse, it will stay with that spouse. If a pet is marital property, the judge will consider factors such as who can care for it better and where it would live more comfortably. The other spouse sometimes might receive visitation rights.
  • How does the presence of an endangered species affect my use of my property?
    If your use of your property might harm the species or its habitat, you can pursue an incidental take permit and provide a habitat conservation plan. For a more lasting solution, you might enter into a safe harbor agreement in which you take certain steps to facilitate the recovery of the species, while avoiding responsibility for future additional steps.
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Popular Topics
  • Dangerous Dog Laws
    A dog may be designated as dangerous if it has seriously injured a person or another domestic animal, or if its behavior would make a reasonable person view it as an immediate threat.
  • Ownership and Possession of Dogs
    A dog owner who is separated from their pet often keeps priority over subsequent possessors of the dog, but they may need to prove their ownership to get the dog returned.
  • Veterinary Malpractice
    A pet owner can bring a claim against a vet whose incompetent treatment harmed their pet, but damages likely will be limited to economic costs and will not cover the owner’s emotional distress.
  • Housing Laws for Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
    Even if a landlord has a no-pets policy, they generally must provide accommodations for service animals and emotional support animals needed by people with disabilities or medical conditions.
  • Endangered Species Protections
    The Endangered Species Act is designed to promote public health and environmental stability by protecting wildlife from extinction, and it has saved nearly all of the species listed under it.
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