A Furry Friend or a Furry Foe?

So your neighbor decided to buy an aggressive 4-legged family member? Whether you view their dog as friend or foe, it’s helpful to know a little about dog breeds and which ones are considered the aggressive breeds in Texas.

So which dogs are on this list? Not every dog in the following list of breeds will be aggressive, of course, but if you or your child have been bitten by a dog that’s known to be aggressive, then the owners of the pet may have responsibilities for which they may be held liable.

The list in the next paragraph is a starting point for your research.

Which Dog Breeds are Considered Aggressive?

Below is a list of aggressive dog breeds in Texas, which is not meant to be exhaustive. But what it does is give you a starting point in your research of the potential liability of owners of pets who have bitten someone.

Some of the dogs that are considered aggressive are:

  • Cane Corso
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • German Shepherd
  • Rottweiler
  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Dalmatian
  • Boxer
  • Husky
  • Chow Chow
  • American Bulldog
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Bullmastiff

The neighbor whose dog has turned out to be aggressive will likely not be held responsible for everything the dog does. If you are trespassing, for example, or if you are provoking the dog, the dog owner may have a valid defense. If the dog is not of a dangerous breed, and if it has never been known to be aggressive, nor has it ever bitten anyone previously, there may be leeway given to the owner under the law. However, in general, your neighbor will be legally responsible in Texas for the damages caused by their dog if they knew or should have known that injury was reasonably likely to occur.

When is the Owner Expected to be on Notice of a Dog Bite Risk?

The “One Bite Rule” is basically a shift in the presumption, where the owner is now on notice that the dog is dangerous. What this means, in general, is that the owner is presumed to be on notice that their dog can pose a threat to biting someone after the dog has already bitten its first victim. So for example, let’s say your neighbor has a Poodle (genuinely believed to be mild and safe). But then, out of nowhere, suppose the Poodle goes into your backyard and bites you on the leg! Once the owner knows this information, then the owner is on notice of the risk. In general, this means that the owner is considered negligent if the Poodle subsequently bites another victim (subject to a few exceptions and defenses). The argument goes, “Well, maybe the owner reasonably believed the Poodle was safe before the first bite, but everything changed after the Poodle had in fact already bitten someone.” Accordingly, the owner has to take precautions (quite a few requirements, in fact) in order to reasonably safeguard against that risk.

There are a lot of nuances in the law, such as situations where there’s strict liability, on the one hand, and defenses the Owner may have on the other hand. So in this area of the law, obtaining an attorney is almost always in your best interest when there has been an injury. Fortunately, we have found that most homeowner’s policies cover dog bites, so making a claim for a dog bite usually means that your neighbor’s insurance will be required to pay compensation for injuries caused by negligent failure to take reasonable precautions.

Levels of Aggressive Behavior

The City of San Antonio has created a list of dangerous vs. aggressive behavior to better classify dogs.

A dog is identified as Dangerous if it makes an unprovoked attack while outside its pen and either injures somebody or makes somebody reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause injury to that person.

A dog is identified as Aggressive if it behaves as described in the three categories of aggressive behavior below:

Level 1 aggressive behavior is when a dog, while in a pen and without provocation, acts to cause a person to reasonably believe that the animal will attack and hurt that person. Level 1 can also be reached if a dog is outside a pen and menaces, chases, displays threatening or unprovoked aggressive behavior or otherwise threatens or endangers the safety of another domestic animal.

Level 2 aggressive behavior is where a dog that is unrestrained causes physical injury to another domestic animal.

Level 3 aggressive behavior is established if an unpenned dog kills another domestic animal, or if it repeats Level 2 behavior after the owner is given notice.

Requirements for Owners of Dangerous Dogs

Owners of a dangerous dog in the San Antonio area are expected to abide by several requirements: Requirements for owners of dangerous dogs, and are as follows:

The dog must be registered and annually updated with a dangerous dog permit. The dog must also wear a collar at all times that can be seen from 50 feet away, indicating that it is a registered dangerous dog.

The owner is required to post at least two signs indicating that there is a dangerous dog on the premises. They must maintain an approved enclosure for the dangerous dog, and when outside the enclosure, the dog must be on a sturdy leash that is no longer than four feet and have a muzzle.

The dog must have a microchip at the owner’s expense and be spayed or neutered at the owner’s expense. (The owner must have proof of both of these items.)

The owner must complete a class on responsible dog ownership regarding dangerous dogs and allow an annual inspection of the house where the dog stays to ensure that the enclosure is sufficient.

If a dog owner violates municipal laws and ordinances regarding safekeeping of their dog, and that dog subsequently bites and injures a victim, then the victim has a strong case of “negligence per se.” This means that your burden of having to demonstrate prior dangerous behavior of that particular dog may not be necessary to hold the dog owner responsible. It’s much like when someone, while driving over the speed limit, loses control and crashes into another car. It’s difficult for them to maintain that they were acting reasonably when they were violating the very law that was designed to protect people from the very thing that happened!

A Four-Legged Family Member

Overall, when your neighbor brings a dog into their home, it can be a joyous occasion and extend the love they already have in their home. But, as much as the pet is beloved, the law steps in to protect folks (especially small children) from the harm caused by dangerous dogs.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need legal representation regarding a dog incident or a dangerous dog, call our office at (210) 899-6142 to learn how we can best assist you. Let our family take care of your family!