Depending on who you ask, some dog breeds are more dangerous than others. Owners of pit bulls argue that the breed gets a bad rap, but a study by the Centers for Disease Control identified pit bulls as the breed most often involved in dog-bite fatalities over a twenty-year period. As a result, many insurers charge higher rates to homeowners who keep pit bulls and other breeds that are considered dangerous. Many landlords who otherwise allow tenants to keep dogs will refuse to rent to people who have certain breeds. When a supposedly dangerous breed bites someone the dog’s breed is often less important than the individual dog’s history for determining liability.
The duties of dog owners in Nevada
Nevada does not have a dedicated statute for dog bites. Whether an owner bears liability for someone being bitten by their dog is typically a question of the owner’s negligence. In the case of dog bites, the central question is often whether the owner failed to comply with a legal duty of care.
Various local and state rules govern dog ownership generally. In Las Vegas all dogs over four months of age must be licensed and vaccinated for rabies. Owners are required to keep their dogs on leashes unless they are contained within the owner’s property, such as behind a tall fence, or in designated places like dog parks. Failing to comply with these requirements can support a grounds for negligence, provided that the lack of compliance was a cause of the dog bite. For example, someone who unlawfully walks a dog off-leash in a public park may be liable for damages if the dog attacks another person’s pet.
A dog’s “dangerousness” is not a question of breed, but of behavior
Specific rules dictate when an animal is legally considered dangerous. Importantly, those rules are not concerned with the dog’s breed, but whether the dog has behaved aggressively in the past. Chapter 7.16 of the Las Vegas Municipal Code authorizes the Department of Public Safety to declare an animal dangerous “if it constitutes a physical threat to human beings or other animals” and either:
- on two separate occasions within an eighteen-month period behaves menacingly or bites a person without causing substantial bodily harm; or
- is used in commission of a crime, causes serious injury or death to another animal that is not at large or otherwise being kept in violation of the law, or exhibits a condition like rabies that poses a threat to public safety.
The Municipal Code further authorizes dogs to be declared “vicious” if they kill or seriously injure a person or another animal, or if they continue to exhibit behaviors that previously justified them being declared dangerous. If an animal is declared vicious the dog must be euthanized, unless the owner can successfully challenge the declaration of viciousness at a formal hearing.
An owner of a dog that is declared dangerous or vicious must comply with a range of special rules, described in section 7.16.030 of the Municipal Code. There are numerous requirements for owners of such animals, including the following:
- The city must inspect and approve the enclosure where the dog will be kept.
- The dog must be muzzled, leashed, and under the control of an adult whenever the dog leaves the owner’s property.
- Warning signs must be posted around the owner’s property.
- The dog must be sterilized.
- The owner must carry at least $50,000 of liability insurance covering potential injuries caused by the dog.
- Sales or other transfers of ownership of the dog must first be approved in writing by the Department of Public Safety.
If an owner fails to comply with these rules and the dog bites someone, the owner may be liable for the injuries under the theory of negligence per se.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served dog bite victims in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured by a dog please reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.