Texas Dog Bite Law 101

I was attacked by a dog two days ago. Here’s the short version. I was doing my usual walk to the park and back when a giant lab mix (let’s call him Kujo) took two bites out me. I fell and twisted my knee, and went to the ER for treatment.

I got a tetanus shot and some hardcore antibiotics (dog’s mouths are not clean places). I’m awaiting word on whether Kujo had rabies or not (probably not since it was someone’s pet, not a stray). My friendly ER nurse informed me that the rabies vaccination isn’t done through the stomach anymore, but it still hurts like hell and requires multiple doses and follow up treatment.

Of course whenever a dog bites an attorney the first question is “Are you going to sue?” I’ll let my partner, Scott Gray, make that decision. I’m a criminal lawyer, so let’s explore Texas Dog Bite Law from that angle.

I have never seen a prosecution for a dog attack, but dog owners should be aware the actions of man’s best friends can create criminal liability for the owner if and when Fido attacks.

From the Health and Safety Code

Sec. 822.005. ATTACK BY DOG. (a) A person commits an offense if the person is the owner of a dog and the person:
(1) with criminal negligence, as defined by Section 6.03, Penal Code, fails to secure the dog and the dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than the owner’s real property or in or on the owner’s motor vehicle or boat and that causes serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code, or death to the other person; or
(2) knows the dog is a dangerous dog by learning in a manner described by Section 822.042(g) that the person is the owner of a dangerous dog, and the dangerous dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than a secure enclosure in which the dog is restrained in accordance with Subchapter D and that causes serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 822.001, or death to the other person.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree unless the attack causes death, in which event the offense is a felony of the second degree.

Basically, if your negligence led to the dog attack, or if you have a “dangerous dog” that attacks someone; you can not only be sued, but sent to jail.

How do you know if you’re dog is a “dangerous dog”? If the animal control officer tells you, or your dog makes an unprovoked attack that causes any injury (not just an SBI).

So, from now on, Kujo is going to be labeled a “dangerous dog”, which as far as I can tell is worse than the sex offender registry in that Kujo can never have that label removed.

Could this dog’s owner be prosecuted? Not unless he knew Kujo was dangerous.

I was attacked on the sidewalk of Kujo’s house, so presumably the first section wouldn’t apply. And I’m doubtful my injuries meet the standard for serious bodily injury. To be an SBI requires the injury cause either death, or a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement or impairment. My knee is swollen, and the Xray turned out negative, but the doctor was optimistic I woud recover in the near future (if I’m not better in a few days I’m supposed to get a MRI). I don’t think I’m dying, and hopefully I don’t have rabies. So SBI doesn’t appear to apply to my injuries.

Don’t owners should be careful, especially if your canine has a history of biting or attacking.

Finally, despite the public outcry over my vicious dog assault, I don’t want any idiot politician to enact “Robbie’s Law”, or any knee jerk dog bite legislation in my name. We have enough criminal laws as it is, and I don’t want my tragedy be used to further the police state in Texas.

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