Indiana Dog Bite Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

Your fluffy little poodle has never harmed a fly, but for some reason felt inclined to sink her teeth into your mail carrier's left ankle, drawing blood and causing a painful infection. You honestly had no reason to suspect she'd do such a thing, but Indiana law holds you liable for the injuries all the same. Had she bitten your next-door neighbor, you wouldn't have been liable -- unless it had happened before. Sound confusing? Get some clarity on Indiana dog bite laws in the following sections.

Indiana Dog Bites: Liability and Negligence

Under Indiana law, dog owners may be held liable for injuries caused by their dog biting another person if they "knew or should have known" the dog was prone to attacks. This is also referred to as the "one bite" rule, since owners typically aren't liable for the first bite if they've acted in good faith. However, this doesn't apply to U.S. postal carriers, police officers, or other state, local, and federal officials carrying out their official duties. If your dog bites someone who's peaceably carrying out official duties, you're strictly liable for damages caused as a result.

Indiana Dog Bite Laws: The Basics

Chances are, you'll want to pursue your legal options if you've been attacked and injured by someone else's dog. If you do, you'll want to understand the letter of the law. Since statutes are often difficult to decipher, we've compiled the following "plain English" summary of Indiana's dog bite laws in the following table.

Statutes

Indiana Code, Title 15, Section 20-1-1, et seq.

Indiana's "One Bite" Rule for Dog Bites

Dog owners may be held liable for damages related to dog bites if the owner knew or should have known the dog was likely to attack or bite others without being provoked.

Criminal Liability for Dog Owner's Negligence or Intentional Act

An owner may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor (up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines) if:

  • The owner recklessly or knowingly fails to take reasonable steps to restrain their dog;
  • The dog then enters another party's property; and
  • As a result, the dog bites or attacks another person (without provocation), causing bodily injury.

This becomes a Class B misdemeanor (up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines) if the person has been convicted under this section before or the attack results in serious bodily injury.

This becomes a Level 6 felony (6 months to 2.5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000) if the owner recklessly violates this section and the attack results in a person's death.

This becomes a Level 5 felony (1 to 6 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines) if the owner intentionally or knowingly violates this section and it results in a person's death.

Liability for Dog Bites Suffered by Government Officials

If a dog bites a person who's acting peaceably and in a location where they may be required to be in order to do their official duties (such as a local police officer or a U.S. postal carrier), then the owner is liable for all damages caused by the bite, even if:

  • The dog hasn't acted in a vicious manner before; or
  • The owner has no knowledge of the dog's prior vicious behavior.

Note: In other words, Indiana's "one-bite" rule for dog bites doesn't apply to victims who are carrying out their duties under state or federal laws, or U.S. postal regulations. This law doesn't apply to non-bite injuries caused by dogs.

Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
  • The dog was provoked; or
  • The person bitten was trespassing at the time.
Time Limit for Filing Claim

2 years (Indiana Civil Statute of Limitations) for personal injury and injury to personal property claims.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

  • Indiana Code - FindLaw's hosted version of the Indiana Code and Constitution.
  • Indiana Laws - FindLaw's summaries of select Indiana laws, including criminal, injury, employment, family, and small business laws.

Indiana Dog Bites: Related Resources

Injured by a Dog Bite in Indiana? An Attorney Can Help

In addition to physical pain and perhaps some time in the hospital -- assuming it doesn't result in death -- dog bites can also cause trauma to their victims. Everyone's situation is unique, but you'll want to seek compensation for your injuries if you've been injured by someone else's dog. Get help with Indiana dog bite laws by contacting an Indiana animal bite injury attorney near you.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.