Whether on a tree-lined street or in an apartment in the city, the threat of a dog attack is becoming more likely. The influx of aggressive dogs in rental housing has increased over the past years, either due to negligence of the landlord in assessing the nature of their tenants’ dogs or due to the tenants’ failure to train and monitor their pets. Data that has been collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that there are almost 4.5 million dog bite victims in the U.S. each year. The vast majority of canines will never bite someone seriously enough to break the skin. However, that does not mean that you can be careless in dealing with unfamiliar dogs. Disclaimer: This is not intended to act as legal advice. Please seek a legal professional to assess your particular situation and advise you accordingly.
The reality is that each and every animal could bite a person under any circumstance. If you’re a pet owner, this could cause you serious legal, financial, and emotional consequences, including the possibility of your beloved pet being quarantined or put down. Alternately, as a potential dog bite victim, you could be in for a painful event. Fortunately, there are several steps both parties can take to help reduce your risk.
Tips for Avoiding Dog-Related Legal Issues
State laws usually stipulate that any person who is legally visiting a private or public area can take legal recourse if bitten by a dog. In other words, if someone is visiting next door and is wounded by your pet (without provoking the attack), they would be able to sue you for all of the damages that they suffer.
Dogs that become classified as dangerous animals can be seized depending on their actions, and their owner will also face the possibility of fines and jail time. Some renters mistakenly believe that their landlord’s insurance will cover them, but this is not the case. The following are a few easy tips to protect yourself and your 4-legged companion:
1. Keep Your Landlord in the Loop – Renting a house comes with some responsibilities, including the fact that you need to ensure that all of your pets are legally allowed per the lease. This will protect you from being forced to make a decision between your pet and an eviction in the future, and it will also help your landlord stay safe when they visit the property. Make sure that you remind your landlord that you have a dog on the premises whenever they schedule a maintenance appointment. This level of open communication will dramatically reduce the risk of any unwanted incidents.
2. Always Spay or Neuter Your Pets – Research indicates that most dog bites can be linked to an animal that was not spayed or neutered. Unfortunately, making the decision to skip this important medical procedure will result in a higher level of aggressive tendencies that can easily lead to an attack on a person or another animal. The ASPCA favors spaying, stating “unspayed females sometimes compete for the attention of a male dog by fighting. Spaying your dog can also eliminate the possibility of hormonally driven guarding behavior.”
3. Never Leave Your Dog Unattended – Some people think that it’s okay to stake their dog outside, but the truth is that this practice will make you much more likely to end up being liable for another’s injuries. If you do not have a fenced-in area for the dog to play, you will need to be with them at all times, and always keep them on a leash. Another factor for not leaving a dog tethered in an open area is that it could arouse an attack from another animal – potentially leading to a child or person being subject to harm in the frenzy of such a fight.
4. Focus on Proper Socialization and Training – Dogs might be touted as “man’s best friend,” but this does not mean that each of them is born prepared to live up to this title. You need to spend the proper amount of time training your pet and socializing them with other people. If you do so, they will respond in a gentler manner to future encounters with individuals who are not part of your immediate family.
Owning a dog is a large responsibility, so before you choose your favorite breed, do your research to figure out whether you are able to handle that breed’s tendencies. For example, huskies get separation anxiety, so that might not be the best choice for someone who works long hours. Similarly, border collies are high-energy dogs, which may not be suitable for small enclosed apartments especially if you are unable to provide them with the exercise they require. Also, be sure to plan on making the time and having finances available to invest in their proper upbringing. Fortunately, following these tips will make your pet much more likely to live a long and happy life without any violent incidents. As an added bonus, demonstrating a commitment to your dog via appropriate veterinary records and a good rental history will make future landlords more willing to accept you as a tenant prospect.
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