What am I Liable for as a Dog Owner in New Jersey?

Owning a dog is one of the highlights of life for many people. A dog is a companion, a protector, and a trusted friend that becomes family. According to a news report, it’s estimated that just under a third of New Jersey residents own a dog. But as enjoyable as it is being a dog owner, it can also come with a large amount of responsibility. As the owner, you are responsible for their safety, their behavior, and their interactions with other people – this includes dog bites and aggressive behavior. If you are a new pet parent, it’s important to understand the legalities that come with being a dog owner. Learn more below about the New Jersey laws for dog owners and how they apply to different situations. 

Q: What Happens if My Dog Bites Someone?

Like most states, New Jersey has a “strict liability” law when it comes to dog owners. If your dog bites someone who was legally on public or private property, the owner will be held liable in a civil lawsuit. Also, if the victim’s bite(s) required medical care, the owner may have to pay for the damages of the injuries as well. According to a Jersey City dog bite lawyer from Brady, Brady and Reilly, LLC, “A dog attack can be violent, leading to severe physical injuries and emotional trauma for a survivor.” It doesn’t matter if the owner knew if the dog had been aggressive before or not, they will still be responsible for their dog’s actions.

Q: What is Considered Negligence by a Dog Owner?

Dog bites are not the only way that our furry friends can injure a human. There are many situations in which a dog can cause an accident, such as chasing a motorcycle in the middle of traffic or charging towards a person and knocking them over. In these types of situations, the strict liability rules do not apply. But if the victim can prove that the injuries were caused by the owner’s negligence, they may be able to receive compensation for their injuries. To prove negligence, the victim needs to prove that the owner had a duty to control the dog’s behavior, the owner failed to meet that duty, and failing to meet this duty resulted in the injury. This type of claim needs to be filed within two years of the incident.

Q: What Do I Do if My Dog Has Been Labeled as ‘Dangerous’?

After a dog has been determined to be dangerous after a serious unprovoked attack, the state of New Jersey has several requirements for the owner. These requirements include getting a special license, putting up warning signs around their property, and keeping the dog in a locked enclosure or contained with a strong leash/muzzle. If the court finds out that the dog has attacked another person or animal, the dog will have to be put down. 

Becoming a dog owner is much more than taking the animal for walks, buying it toys, and playing with it. It’s important to understand that you are taking on the responsibility of caring for the animal, as well as the consequences of their behavior. 

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