One way that owners try to protect their liability should their dog bite someone is to place “Beware of Dog” signs on their property as a way to warn someone who visits that there is a dog. Even if your dog is docile and you don’t think they will bite anyone, you may be tempted to put a sign up just in case something does go wrong.
Before you put up that warning sign, there are some aspects of the law you need to be aware of in order to avoid liability. A sign could warn others that you have a dog on the property, but it may also send a different message to the courts if you end up involved in a lawsuit.
What the Sign Could Indicate
It is possible that a “Beware of Dog” sign could indicate that you are aware that your dog may bite someone. They may view your need for the sign as a way of telling people that they need to beware of your dog because the dog has shown signs of aggressive behavior in the past, even if there is no record that your dog had ever acted in a vicious manner.
What if the Dog Has Bitten Before?
Putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign because your dog has bitten someone before may be viewed even more harshly by the courts. If the dog bit someone and you put the sign up afterward, you are indicating that you are aware that your dog has violent tendencies, which means you needed to take additional steps to protect anyone who stepped on your property beyond just a paper sign.
Choose Signs with Neutral Wording
If you feel it is necessary to put up a sign that there is a dog on your property, you can do so, but you want to word it in a neutral way. You can simply say “Dog on Property,” which is less threatening than “Beware of Dog.” By simply letting people know you have a dog, you are not implying that the dog is a danger, but that people should be aware of the animal.
There are provocation exceptions that may help should you decide to put up “Beware of Dog” signs. If you have posted “No Trespassing” signs and someone has ignored them, leading to the dog bite, you may not be liable. Trespassing is a crime in itself and, if your dog bites someone who is trespassing, the courts may give you an exception under provocation statutes.
This may also be a viable defense if the person who was bitten provoked the dog in any way, such as throwing things at the dog, hitting or kicking it, or abusing it in some other way.
Legal Right to Be On Property
You may be liable for any dog bite injuries on someone who has a legal right to be on your property, even if you did not invite them. For instance, if the dog bites the person reading your meter, they had a legal right to be on your property. If your dog chases someone who was on the property or bites someone who was passing by, you may be liable no matter what type of signs you have posted.
If your dog bites someone or you have been bitten by a dog, you want to consult a dog bite lawyer who can advise you what rights you have under the law. They can help you protect your rights if your dog has bitten someone or to help you get compensation if you are the victim of a dog bite.