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A Dog Sitter’s Liability for Bites

Dog sitting is a common job in the gig economy. Whether done through an intermediary service or informally, taking care of an unfamiliar dog involves a degree of risk for the sitter. In addition to making sure that the dog is well cared for and safe, keeping the dog from endangering others is a key part of the sitter’s job. If the dog should bite another dog or a person, the sitter may be held legally responsible for any resulting injuries.

Avoiding negligence as a dog sitter

Nevada law doesn’t treat dog bite injuries any differently than other types of personal injury. Liability comes down to whether the negligence of the person responsible for the dog caused the injury. A key issue in any negligence case is whether the defendant (here, the dog sitter) owed a legal obligation to the plaintiff and failed to meet it, and as a consequence the plaintiff got hurt.

A dog sitter’s legal obligations are not so different from those of the dog’s owner. An obvious example is compliance with leash laws. The sitter must ensure that the dog is properly leashed wherever required. In Las Vegas that means in most places outside the home. Failing to leash a dog can by itself be grounds for establishing negligence. The sitter may also have a duty to protect others from the dog if the dog’s aggressive tendencies are well understood. For example, if the sitter has been warned that the dog is prone to aggression around small children, the sitter probably has an obligation to keep tight control of the dog around kids.

Understanding the limits of contract

Dog sitters who work independently from an agency and who do not organize a separate, limited liability entity (like an LLC or corporation) for their business are legally considered to be sole proprietors. One consequence of that is the sitter is personally liable for any damages he or she may cause. People who work on this basis should carry insurance that will protect them from the financial consequences of a mistake.

Working through an agency can put a sitter into a different category. Although in practical terms the sitter is still a sole proprietor, because the sitter is also an independent contractor of the agency the agency should bear some or all of the legal responsibility for the pet care arrangement. Dog sitters who work through an agency should be sure to understand the scope of the agency’s protections for the sitter. These protections include:

  • Insurance coverage for injuries caused by the dog while under the sitter’s control.
  • Litigation expense coverage.
  • Indemnification against expenses (i.e., the agency bears all the financial risk).
  • Protection against property damages.
  • Protection of the dog itself against injury.

Every such contract will contain important limitations. For example, no agency will defend a pet sitter who purposefully mistreats a client’s dog. For someone who has been injured by a dog in a sitter’s care, the wording of the contract between the sitter and the agency can be an important part of developing a legal case.

Someone who has been bitten by a dog should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases involving dog bites. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.