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There’s No Such Thing As “One Free Bite” For Dogs

The old adage “every dog gets one free bite” hasn’t been the case in Arizona for more than 75 years. In 1990, the Arizona legislature reorganized and renumbered animal liability statutes into A.R.S. §§ 11-1001 to 11-1029. Specifically, A.R.S. § 11-1025 imposes strict liability on the owner of a dog that bites a person without regard to where the bite occurred; this includes the private property of the dog owner. This statute makes particular reference to the imposition of liability regardless of the dog’s “former viciousness … or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.” In other words, whether the dog has bitten someone in the past does not matter. In fact, evidence of a dog’s gentleness or viciousness is inadmissible at trial because it has no relevancy in cases brought under this statute.

The only defense to liability under A.R.S. § 11-1025 is proof that the injured party provoked the animal. Provocation is almost always raised as a defense because the owner’s defenses are so limited by the statute itself. One court described provocation as situations where the injured person kicks, hits, teases, “or in some way provokes the dog.” See Massey v. Colaric, 151 Ariz. 65, 725 P.2d. 1099 (1986). It is likely that courts will let the jury decide whether the dog was provoked or not. However, don’t confuse provocation with the assumption of risk, which is not a defense to strict liability under the statute.

It is important to note that if you were injured and want to be justifiably compensated by the dog owner pursuant to this statute, a settlement must be reached or suit filed before the expiration of one-year following the incident. See Murdock v. Balle, 144 Ariz. 136, 696 P.2d 230 (Ct. App. 1985). However, if you have been injured and more than one-year has passed, but less than two-years, not all is lost. Arizona courts permit claims under theories of scienter, negligence, and negligence per se. However, unlike claims brought under the statute, these other theories limit liability of the dog owner to those cases where the owner knew or had reason to know of their animal’s vicious propensities. In such cases, the statute of limitations, or the time period in which you must reach a settlement or file a lawsuit, is extended to two-years from the date you were injured.

Often times the animal dog owner is insured for these types of events. If the dog owner of the animal is also a homeowner, his or her homeowner insurance policy will likely provide coverage and pay for the resulting damages. If the animal dog owner carries a renter’s policy, coverage may extend to an animal event as well. When the appropriate insurance coverage is in place, presenting justifiable claims makes it easier to maintain relationships with family or acquaintance dog owners following an accident.

If you have been attacked, chewed on, scratched, or knocked down by someone else’s dog, don’t sit idle because the dog’s owner is shocked and insisting that “this is the first time my dog has ever done this.” Arizona doesn’t permit dogs to injure people for free. Injuries that result from these types of animal encounters often leave lifelong physical and mental scars that should be fully compensated. The last thing you need is to be faced with is an insurance adjuster whose sole aim is to create some appearance of provocation in an effort to minimize your pain, injuries, and how much you ultimately recover. Call POUNDSTONE SCOTTEN, PLLC for a free consultation because timing is important.


The information provided in this website is meant only as a general description of the current laws as of the date of the writing. It is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of all the nuances of the law and is intended to be only an overview. Many issues may appear simpler than they are, and an individual should always contact an attorney to obtain a complete, accurate interpretation of the law given the individual’s particular circumstances. POUNDSTONE SCOTTEN, PLLC makes no representations as to how the law would affect a particular situation and intends only to illustrate areas of concern and give general information.

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