Due to an increased popularity, dog parks are all over the country. These unique parks are a saving grace for many pet owners, especially city dwellers, people who have a difficult time getting around, and those with dog breeds that require a great deal of exercise. Although these parks provide a place for dogs to exercise and play with other dogs, there are reports of animals being seriously injured.
If your dog sustained serious injuries from another dog at a dog park, you might question whether you have any legal recourse to recoup vet bills. Unfortunately, your case could be hard to win. Current laws state that dogs must be on a leash or controlled by their owners at all times. If a dog was injured due to being attacked by an unleashed dog or one that broke free from its owner while walking in a neighborhood, the injured dog’s owner could file and win a lawsuit. The problem is that those same laws do not apply to a dog park.
Dog parks consist of open spaces where dogs roam void of leashes, often a great distance from their owners. To protect themselves and park visitors, most dog parks have visible signs clearly stating that pet owners enter at their own risk. That means that owners have no legal backing if their pet is injured by another dog. For added protection, most dog parks have segregated areas, one for large breeds and another for small breeds.
Suing the owner of an aggressor dog is a tough battle to fight. However, under certain circumstances, you could have a winnable case. To be successful in your lawsuit, you need proof that there were no warning signs or rules posted, that the other dog’s owner purposely enticed the animal to attack your dog, or that the other dog owner was negligent.
To file a lawsuit, you have two primary options. First, you must prove negligence on behalf of the other dog owner. This can be accomplished by showing that the owner knew the animal had a propensity to bite or that the rules of the dog park were posted yet that individual failed to follow them, even having been previously cited by local animal control. Your case would be even stronger if you sustained a bite along with your dog. Second, if no warning signs or rules were posted, you might be able to sue the municipality, although this is usually unsuccessful.
Like many dog owners, you probably think of your dog as a family member. To determine if you have a winnable case due to your dog being seriously injured while visiting a dog park, the best thing that you can do is hire an attorney who specializes in this area of the law. Your attorney will review the local laws, visit the dog park, talk to witnesses, and take other actions that will help bolster your case. Without an attorney, winning a lawsuit against the other dog owner or municipality would be nearly impossible.