Understanding Dog Bite Laws in Oklahoma

Jan 03

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 4.7 million people in the US are bitten by a dog, of which according to the website of Abel Law Firm about 20% will be serious enough to require medical attention and about 27,000 (2012) requiring reconstructive surgery. In 2013, 31 people died from dog bites.

In Oklahoma, the laws are very strict when it comes to dog bites. The main statute dealing with the liability of dog owners is embodied in Oklahoma Code §1711 which states that the “owner of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death or loss to person or property that is caused by such dog.” This means that a victim of a dog attack (bite or not) can recover compensation from the dog’s owner or other third person unless the victim was committing a crime, trespassing, or taunting or abusing the dog at the time of the incident. Oklahoma imposes strict liability for dog bites i.e. the dog does not have to have a history of biting under four legal doctrines: negligence, negligence per se, and scienter.

Negligence refers to the failure of a person (dog owner or others) to exercise reasonable care when dealing with a dog, resulting in injury or damage to another person. A homeowner that allows a stray dog to get into the yard where young children are playing will be liable for injuries resulting from that action, even if the homeowner does not own the dog. Negligence per se, on the other hand, refers to negligence as a legal matter. A dog owner that fails to properly restrain a dog while in a public area can be held liable for injuries to another person, animal, or damage to property under the negligence per se doctrine.

This is distinct from the scienter doctrine, in which the cause of action is the propensity of a dog i.e. sharp teeth or any domestic animal to do harm and not the action or lack of action of the owner/keeper. The owner or keeper can be held strictly liable for causing harm to a third party if scienter is proven.

Dog bites can be serious, and the victims can suffer huge losses. In Oklahoma, you can get compensation from the party responsible for your dog bite or animal attack injuries. Consult with a personal injury lawyer in Oklahoma to discuss your case and options for pursuing compensation.

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