Man's best friend, the dog, can be a fantastic companion. But with sharp teeth and a strong jaw, even the smallest of dogs can do damage in some circumstances. In fact, dog bites take place every 75 seconds in the U.S. If you're a dog owner, here's what you need to know about your responsibility if your dog attacks.

What Happens When Your Dog Bites a Human

Most dog bites happen on your property, and your homeowners' insurance typically covers any claims. However, you don't want an unfounded claim to make your rates go up. There can be some reasons why a normally agreeable dog may bite, and you'll need to prove at least one of them:

  • Provocation. If the person was yelling at the dog, playing with it (without your permission) or doing something to make it mad, then the attack would be considered to be provoked. Your statement and any witness statements about the activity leading up to the attack are important to prove this.
  • Self defense. Your dog attacked someone who was trying to hurt you. If your dog does bite in these circumstances, it's important to have documentation, so always call the police and have them take a report.
  • Trespassing. If someone came on to your property, especially when you have "No Trespassing" or "Beware of Dog" signs, it usually isn't considered your fault if your dog attacks. Make sure you have photos of the signs displayed prominently around your home.

Remember that you are responsible for your dog's actions, even if it has never showed signs of aggression or bitten anyone before. Your state statutes will determine the level of your responsibility. Talk to your lawyer immediately if your dog does injure someone else.

If you know without a doubt that your dog did bite and do damage, it's a good idea to call the authorities and seek medical attention for the injured person. Even when you're at fault, it's the right thing to do to get help -- and it will show that you performed your duties as a bystander if a case is filed.

What Happens When Your Dog Bites an Animal

If your dog attacks another dog, you may be liable for any veterinary bills associated with the wounds. If your dog kills another dog (or any other animal), that is considered property damage and you are unlikely to have to pay more than the value of the animal.

Few pet owners want to be responsible for an injury or the death of another animal, though. The best way to prevent your dog from harming another is to keep it in a secure, fenced yard and to have it on leash whenever it is out of the yard. If another animal then approaches your dog on its leash, and is attacked, your liability is considerably reduced or non-existent.

Need answers on what you are responsible for if your dog does get into an altercation or bites someone? Talk to your attorney as soon as possible to limit your liability. To learn more, contact a company like with any questions you have.