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New Jersey Dog Bite Laws

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

One second it's fetching a ball repeatedly thrown by its master and wagging its tail, not a care in the world. The next, it has its jaws clenched onto your wrist, breaking the skin and cracking a bone. You had no idea dogs could snap like that and attack an innocent bystander, but now you need to seek medical care and make sure the dog doesn't have any diseases. Thankfully, the owner is responsible and secures his dog before checking on you and giving you his information.

Dog bites and animal attacks can happen anywhere, anytime; even in the Garden State. Learn about New Jersey dog bite laws, including liability for injuries, in the sections below.

New Jersey Dog Bites: Strict Liability vs. Negligence

Since New Jersey law recognizes strict liability for dog bites (or other injuries caused by a dog attack), you don't have to prove the dog was known to be vicious to file a claim. Plaintiffs can file a claim only if they were on public property or on private property legally (i.e. not trespassing) at the time of the incident.

However, New Jersey's strict liability statute only covers animal attacks. It doesn't apply to injuries resulting from a dog owner's carelessness, such as a dog running into the street and causing a car to swerve and crash. In these types of cases, the plaintiff must prove the dog's owner (or other legally responsible party) was negligent in order to make a claim for damages.

New Jersey Dog Bite Laws at a Glance

You want to better understand the law and your right to compensation for injuries caused by someone else's dog, not decipher legalese. That's why we've summarized the basics of New Jersey's dog bite laws below.

Statutes

New Jersey Statutes Title 4, Section 19-16, et seq.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites

Dog owners are strictly liable for bites or other injuries related to a dog attack.

Negligence Claims for Careless Dog Owners

For injuries not from animal attacks but rather owner negligence, the plaintiff must prove that the owner:

  • Failed to meet (or breached) their duty to take reasonable care to control their animal; and
  • As a result of this failure, the animal caused injury to the plaintiff.
Statutory Definition of "Potentially Dangerous" Dog

The municipal court shall* declare a dog to be potentially dangerous if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the dog:

  • Caused bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or impairment of physical condition) to a person during an unprovoked attack, and poses a serious threat of bodily injury or death to a person;
  • Severely injured or killed another domestic animal, and poses a threat of serious bodily injury or death to a person or another domestic animal; or
  • Has been trained, tormented, badgered, baited or encouraged to engage in unprovoked attacks upon persons or domestic animals.

*Doesn't apply to dogs that were provoked (the court bears the burden of proof) or if the other domestic animal was the aggressor.

Statutory Definition of "Vicious" Dog

The municipal court shall* declare a dog vicious if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the dog:

  • Has killed or caused serious bodily injury to a person; or
  • Has engaged in dog fighting activities.

*The court must prove that the dog was unprovoked in its attack; if no appeal is made, the dog shall be destroyed.

Grounds for Seizing and Impounding a Dog

A dog may be seized and impounded when the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the dog:

  • Attacked a person and caused death or serious bodily injury;
  • Caused bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or impairment of physical condition) to a person during an unprovoked attack and poses a serious threat of harm to persons or domestic animals;
  • Engaged in dog fighting activities; or
  • Has been trained, tormented, badgered, baited or encouraged to engage in unprovoked attacks upon persons or domestic animals.
Time Limit for Filing Claim

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

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

Related Resources

Get Professional Legal Help With Your New Jersey Dog Bite Claim

If you've been bitten by a dog in New Jersey, you may have injuries that rack up substantial medical costs or even effect your future earning potential. In any event, a legal professional can help you get a handle on how to best make your claim. Get help today by contacting a New Jersey animal bite injury attorney near you.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.