With more and more folks keeping their dogs off the leash, (I have come across at least three-dozen unleashed dogs in the past year in my outdoor activities, luckily all those pups were kind and loving), questions arise about dog bite liability in our community.
Below I have provided a summary of Nevada law regarding dog bite liability.
Different Classifications of Dog Caretakers
The state of Nevada classifies dog caretakers into three distinct categories to help assign liability. The different categories are listed in decreasing levels of assigned responsibility:
The person who purchased/cares for the dog and provides living quarters.
The person who cares, controls and provides shelter for a dog, with or without permission of the owner.
The person who, although not performing enough functions for the dog to be considered a keeper or owner, still provides food and refuge for a dog. Providing a meal for a stray or allowing a dog to wonder on your property is not be enough possession to be classified as a harborer.
Usually, harboring takes place for a limited amount of time, keeping for a more indefinite period.
If your dog bites another individual, and are an owner, keeper, or harborer, then you may be liable for the damages.
Dog Bite Liability in Nevada
Nevada, unlike many other states, has very little legislation with reference to dog injuries. The majority of dog bite cases will be adjudicated through the common law (meaning evaluated and compared with past Nevada case law).
A dog’s first bite will likely be decided under the scienter or negligence framework. If your dog has a biting history, there is a statute that applies. Each will be explained in turn.
Meaning, “knowingly” in Latin, it refers to what you may know as the “one-bite rule.”
That is, in particular cases, you will not be held liable for your dog’s first incident of causing harm to another person. This is not a steadfast rule! If your dog is found to have a “dangerous propensity,” then this defense will not apply.
Dangerous Propensity means that you have or had reason to believe that the dog would cause harm to another. For example, if the dog in the past has lunged at and tried to attack strangers.
It is still possible, however, if the biting incident is your dog’s first, that you still may be negligent. Unincorporated Clark County and the municipalities of Las Vegas, Henderson, and North Las Vegas all have leash laws requiring dogs to be on a leash at all times outside of the household.
If your dog bites someone while off the leash, you may very well be subject to dog bite liability. The lesson here is to keep your dog on the leash while out and about to avoid unnecessary exposure to dog bite liability.
NRS 202.500 is the only relevant law on the books, and it concerns so called “vicious dogs.” The statute states as follows:
NRS 202.500 Dangerous or vicious dogs: Unlawful acts; penalties.
1. For the purposes of this section, a dog is:
(a) “Dangerous” if:
(1) It is so declared pursuant to subsection 2; or
(2) Without provocation, on two separate occasions within 18 months, it behaved menacingly, to a degree that would lead a reasonable person to defend himself or herself against substantial bodily harm, when the dog was:
(I) Off the premises of its owner or keeper; or
(II) Not confined in a cage, pen or vehicle.
(b) “Provoked” when it is tormented or subjected to pain.
(c) “Vicious” if:
(1) Without being provoked, it killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm upon a human being; or
(2) After its owner or keeper had been notified by a law enforcement agency that the dog is dangerous, the dog continued the behavior described in paragraph (a).
2. A dog may be declared dangerous by a law enforcement agency if it is used in the commission of a crime by its owner or keeper.
3. A dog may not be found dangerous or vicious:
(a) Based solely on the breed of the dog; or
(b) Because of a defensive act against a person who was committing or attempting to commit a crime or who provoked the dog.
4. A person who knowingly:
(a) Owns or keeps a vicious dog, for more than 7 days after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious; or
(b) Transfers ownership of a vicious dog after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
5. If substantial bodily harm results from an attack by a dog known to be vicious, its owner or keeper is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130. In lieu of, or in addition to, a penalty provided in this subsection, the judge may order the vicious dog to be humanely destroyed.
For legal mumbo-jumbo, that was not too painful. There are a couple of takeaways.
First, if your dog has two incidents within an eighteen month period of injuring another person, unprovoked, he or she will be declared “vicious.”
This might subject you to a felony charge if there was another incident after the “vicious” declaration, and perhaps worse, the state may opt to “humanely destroy” your dog.
If your dog is classified as vicious, please do all you can to prevent another incident.
This could include, but is not limited to, using a strong leach, using a muzzle, posting clear signs on your property, and keeping the dog in a secure area while you gone.
If you are the victim of the dog bite, please contact our personal injury department at (702) 522-0696 and schedule a free consultation.