They say dogs are a man’s best friend, and while it’s mostly true, like everything else in life there is an exception to the rule. Without notice or warning, a dog can attack and it’s neither enjoyable nor pleasant for the dog, owner, or victim. In Massachusetts, the dog bite law is set forth in MGL c 140, s 155. Majority of the time, the owner of the dog is liable for injuries suffered in the attack with exceptions including if the victim was trespassing, committing a crime, or abusing the dog. While most states require the plaintiff to show proof of previous aggression from the dog, Massachusetts does not. State lawmakers were so prevalent in creating strict guidelines in reference to dog bites given how serious and common they are in the state.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than half of all Massachusetts residents own a pet, and 1 in 4 households own a dog. Moreover, there are an average of 6,300 dog bite injuries reported annually, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The most common dog bite injuries include fractured bones, scars, infections (including rabies), tissue loss, and lacerations. The Department of Health reports that head and facial injuries are more common in children, while adult injuries usually consist of arm and leg injuries. Once it occurs, the victim has three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit.
In order to prevent a dog injury bite, it is important that the owner socializes the dog, reducing the risk of the dog biting out of fear. In cases where the Dog Bite law does not apply, the owner has two main defenses: trespassing and provocation. If the victim of the bite was trespassing on private property without permission, the owner cannot face a dog related injury lawsuit. Similarly, if the victim was provoking the dog (purposely teasing and tormenting- or even abusing the dog), the owner is not liable.