If a landlord has a tenant whose dog bites someone, can that landlord be held responsible? It’s a question we’re often asked by our Greater Fall River clients, and for good reason. Many times, if a tenant’s dog bites someone, the injured party wants to file a claim against the dog owner. But what if the dog owner owns no assets nor insurance? The next logical step is go after the landlord.

But this could be a tougher fight than you might think.

In general, it’s particularly difficult to hold a landlord responsible for his or her tenant’s dogs.

But there are, of course, exceptions.

When might a Fall River landlord be responsible for a dog bite?

One of the most used exceptions is if the dog has been at the property for a considerable amount of time, and has shown what’s referred to as dangerous propensities. In this instance, the landlord may be responsible for the dog’s actions.

But in order to make this claim stick, you have to demonstrate that:

  • The landlord is not the owner or keeper of the dog
  • The landlord was aware of the dog and its propensity for dangerous behavior
  • And that the landlord was negligent by allowing the dog to stay at the residence

Being able to prove all three of these elements can be extremely tricky.

What if the landlord is more than just a landlord – Fall River, MA dog bite laws

Here’s an interesting angle to this case that we’ve personally seen come across our desks. I recently had a case where I represented a police officer bitten by a dog. We decided to bring claims against both the tenant and the landlord.

But why?

We did this because, in this particular case, there was a question of whether the landlord was, in fact, a keeper of the dog. In other words, we had reason to believe the landlord cared for the dog (including fed it, took it out for walks, leashed it up outside, etc.). This places a bit more responsibility of the dog on the landlord, and, in Massachusetts, you do not have to prove negligence was performed by the keeper of a dog. You just have to prove you were not trespassing or provoking the animal.

How can Massachusetts dog owners protect themselves in the event of a dog bite claim?

If you are a dog owner in Fall River, Somerset, New Bedford, and throughout Bristol County, then you can protect yourself by having insurance that covers your dog. If you own property – especially if it’s your principal residence – we strongly urge you put a declare of homestead on your principal residence (in addition to insurance).

I know that recently in Fall River, MA there was some discussion over whether dog owners of certain aggressive breeds should be forced to have insurance. I believe that law never did follow through to completion, but other communities across the country do require such insurance.

Have you or someone you know been attacked by a dog in Greater Fall River or Rhode Island?

Let the legal experts at Sabra and Aspden examine your case and help you determine whether you have a viable claim. If you do have a viable claim, we’ll work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (508) 689-7832 or visit our Somerset offices (1026 County Street) to set up a free consultation.