Dog Bite Liability in Connecticut: The Growing Focus on Pit Bulls

Dog bite liability is a concern in Connecticut for more than the mail person. Anyone can be the victim of a dog bite and too often dog bite victims are small children. A dog bite can quickly result in a trip to the emergency room, and a serious dog bite can result in life-threatening injuries. In recent years certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, have been identified as being more dangerous than other breeds, and the idea is now leading to more legal scrutiny regarding the owners of such breeds. The highest court in Maryland, the Maryland Court of Appeals, recently ruled that pit bulls are more dangerous than other breeds, and while the court's decision does not directly affect the law in Connecticut, the ruling may influence the development of dog bite liability in our state.

Particular Focus on Pit Bulls

The Maryland Court of Appeals decision identifies pit bulls as "inherently dangerous" dogs, and the effect of the label means that owners of pit bulls and landlords of tenants who own pit bulls are automatically liable for injuries caused by the pets they own or they allow to reside on their property. The term "pit bull" references at least three different breeds of dogs including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. However, some animal and animal law experts argue that the term pit bull does not refer to a specific registered breed but a set of characteristics that many dogs may feature. The issue may make it difficult to factually find that a certain dog is a purebred pit bull therefore subject to the new law.

The case the decision is based on is a dog bite case brought by the parents of a 10-year-old boy who was mauled by a pit bull against the landlord of the dog owner. The landlord allowed a tenant to keep a pit bull on her property, and when meaningful recovery for the boy could not be obtained from the owner, the parents sued the landlord. In Connecticut, a landlord can also be held liable for an injury caused by a tenant's dog; however, the law is not as strict.

The Law in Connecticut

In Connecticut, the owner or keeper of a dog is automatically liable for an injury to a person or property the dog causes. However, the owner or keeper of the dog may not be liable if the injured person was tormenting or abusing the dog or if the injured person was attempting to commit an injurious act on the owner's property. Petting a dog in a normal manner is not considered tormenting, and the actions of anyone injured under the age of seven are presumed to have not been tormenting the dog or committing an injurious act towards the owner. The presumption can be proven otherwise.

A non-owner can be held liable in Connecticut if the person is providing care to the dog, such as feeding, watering and providing shelter to the pet. A landlord can also be held liable for injury caused by a tenant's dog if the landlord knew or should have know that the dog was vicious or so dangerous as to likely cause injury and if the injury occurred on the landlord's premises.

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal rights.