Kansas City Dog Bites: The Basics

Your toddler Sammy loves taking Spot to the Penn Valley dog park on weekends and playing with all the cute puppies, but today is different. There is a huge pit bull with a scar across his eye growling at any dog who comes near it. The dogs are smart enough to keep their distance, but the same can't be said for Sammy, who assumes all dogs are friendly and bounds toward the beast. It's all over before you can shout out a warning, with Sammy's arm bitten and bloodied. Now you have to pay the hospital bill? That's just not fair, and FindLaw has created this guide to Kansas City dog bite cases to generally outline the law surrounding these types of cases.

Dog Bite Statute

Missouri Revised Statutes section 273.036 imposes strict liability on dog owners for dog bites, whether or not their dogs ever bit anyone in the past. In other words, Kansas City dogs do not get "one free bite." This law applies to both owners and possessors of the dog, so dog walkers can be held liable too. The statute also applies to property damage or damage to livestock resulting from a dog bite. It has even applied when the victim is on the dog's owner's property, so long as the victim was not a trespasser. However, the statute does not apply to non-bite injuries inflicted by dogs, for example a scratch or fall.

The defendant may have a defense if the can demonstrate that the bitten individual was trespassing on private property. The defendant may also claim that the plaintiff was partly at fault for the dog attack, perhaps by teasing or provoking an obviously agitated animal. If that is the case, any damages owed by the defendant are reduced by the percentage that the bite victim's fault contributed to the incident. This is similar to the comparative negligence doctrine used in negligence cases in many states.

Anyone found liable under this statute must compensate the plaintiff for economic and non-economic damages and may be fined up to $1,000.

What Happens to my Dog?

Missouri Revised Statute section 273.100 provides that government agents may impound any dog found roaming free and unattended at the Kansas City Animal Shelter. The dog must be impounded for at least one week before the pound can euthanize the animal.

The One Bite Rule

The Missouri dog bite statute is intentionally broad and intended to replace the traditional common law one bite rule. The one bite rule states that a person can recover damages for personal injuries against a dog owner if the plaintiff can prove that the owner knew, or should have known, of the dog's vicious propensities, and that the owner failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harm, so long as the attack occurred while the victim was on public property or lawfully on private property. This is obviously harder to prove than a case brought under the dog bite statute above, mainly due to the difficulty in proving the defendant's knowledge. Nevertheless, this kind of case could be useful if, for some unforeseen reason, your case fails to meet a technicality of dog bite statute.

Negligence Per Se

The negligence per se doctrine asserts that anyone who breaks the law can be liable for any injuries that result from the law breaking activity (so long as the injury is of the type the law was meant to prevent).

The negligence per se doctrine might enter into dog bite cases when a defendant fails to abide by animal control laws. Specifically, Kansas City Ordinance section 14-33, also known as the leash law, prohibits dogs from roaming free in public areas. Dogs can, of course, roam free on its owner's property, but only if confined by a leash, fence, or electronic collar of some sort. Seeing eye dogs and dogs in designated "off leash areas" are exempt from this statute. Combined with the negligence per se doctrine, this means that the dog's owner is presumed to be negligent whenever his or her dog is allowed off leash and attacks someone.

Statute of Limitations

In Missouri, the time limit on bringing a personal injury claim to civil court is five years. If you do not get your lawsuit started by filing a civil complaint within five years, the court will refuse to even consider the merits of the case.

All the more reason to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney today. Lawyers in this field typically work on a contingency fee basis, which means they collect a certain percent of your eventually recovery; yes, that means they don't get paid until you win.

More Resources

Browse through Kansas City Animal Health and Public Safety Division thorough FAQ or contact them at (816) 513-1313 if you have additional questions. If you must give your dog up for adoption, please use the Kansas City Humane Society as they are a no-kill shelter.

If you are looking to adopt, check out the Kansas City Pet Project. For more general information on dog bite law, please visit FindLaw's section on animal attacks.

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