Texas Dog Bite Laws - The One Bite Rule

Dog attacks can be a scary incident and anyone involved can be seriously injured. Dog bites can tear skin and cause significant scarring. Texas law does allow for a dog bite victim to request compensation from the dog owner or whoever is liable for the attack as a result of personal injury. Texas law has some of the harshest penalties for owners of dogs that have attacked, but many circumstances need to be met in order for the laws to be enforced. There are a few available causes of action that a dog bite victim can consider.

The One Bite Rule in Texas

Texas law regarding dog bites is considered to be a "one bite rule." This rules gives a person liability for any harm that was inflicted upon another person by a domestic animal. This rule also states that a person who has been attacked can recover compensation if the dog has bitten a person before or acted like they wanted to. Both of these circumstances must be met, or the victim will be unable to receive compensation. Under this rule, it is hard to successfully prove that a dog has bitten a person before or acted like they wanted to. Dog attacks are sometimes random or may occur when the owner or person responsible for the dog are not present. Proving that the dog has bitten someone else before proves to be the harder task, if you cannot prove that, you do not have a case.

Claiming Negligence

A dog bite victim may also recover compensation on the grounds of negligence. Negligence is considered to be a lack of ordinary care. Under this claim, liability can be given to dog owners as well as any other person who may be responsible. For example, if you knowingly let a stray dog into your establishment and it bites someone, the liability may fall on you.

To recover any compensation under the claim of negligence, for a dog owner, you must first prove that the defendant owns the dog in question. This is typically a very easy thing to prove. You must then prove that the defendant owed a duty to prevent the animal from harming another person. This duty is owed by any animal owner, so this is also easy to prove. You must then prove that the defendant did not fulfill this duty and that this unfulfilled duty was the cause of your injury. Claiming negligence may be a better route to take if you are seeking compensation for a dog bite because you do not have to prove that the dog in question has bitten another person previously.

A landowner can be liable, under the negligence claim, if they do not remove an animal from their land (via animal control, etc.) when they have knowledge of how dangerous or vicious it is. As a landowner, they are accepting the duty to provide a safe environment for all invited guests or tenants. If you are seeking compensation from a land owner you must prove that the injury occurred in a common area that is under the control of the landowner. You must then prove that the owner also had knowledge of the dog and it's vicious nature.

Dangerous and Vicious Dogs

In some cases, a dog owner's liability for an attack that causes injury may be based on the owner's violation of the Texas' "dangerous dog" law or a local ordinance.

Under Texas law, a "dangerous dog" is one that:

Makes an unprovoked attack on a person while outside of its enclosure that causes bodily injury to the person
Commits unprovoked acts while outside of its enclosure which cause a person to reasonably believe the dog will attack and cause bodily injury.

A local animal control authority such as the City of Austin Animal Services Office determines whether a dog is dangerous. Within 30 days after learning of that determination, the dog's owner must take a series of steps, including registering the dog and restraining the dog at all times in a "secure enclosure" or on a leash that is in the immediate control of a person.

Are Beware of Dog Signs Enough?

Under Texas law, a "secure enclosure" means a fenced-in area or structure that is:

  • Locked
  • Capable of preventing the dog's escape
  • Capable of preventing entry of others, including children
  • Clearly marked as containing a dangerous dog (in other words, a "Beware of Dangerous Dog" sign)
  • Inspected and approved by a local animal control authority.

Additionally, in Austin, liability for a dog bite could be based on the owner's violation of the city's "vicious dog" ordinance.

Under this law, a dog is deemed "vicious" if the animal has done any of the following:

  • Bit or scratched a person in the city at least three separate times
  • On at least one occasion, bit or scratched a person to the extent that it may have endangered the person's life
  • Killed another domestic pet (such as a dog or cat), fowl or livestock
  • Seriously injured another animal to an extent that:
    • The injured animal's life was seriously endangered or taken, or
    • The injured animal suffered a significant permanent impairment of basic bodily functions or mobility

The City Health Authority will determine whether a dog is "vicious" and, if so, mail notice to the dog's owner. The notice informs the owner that the dog's registration has been revoked. The dog owner must remove the animal from the city limits within 10 days after the notice is mailed.

Contact our Austin Dog Bite Attorneys Today

Seeking compensation in a dog bite case can be difficult but is necessary for some victims. Dog attacks can change people's lives in terms of their appearance and medical bill payments. If you have any questions, our Texas dog bite lawyers offer free consultations. Contact Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP today! Our office can be reached at 512-593-7650.