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Understanding dog bite liability in Massachusetts


Over the past holiday weekend, many Worcester residents likely spent time with family and friends. Going over to another's home or residence often means encountering all of that residence's occupants, whether those are other family members, roommates or pets. In the case of pets, it is often wise to be careful around any animal that is unfamiliar, even if it is the family pet of a loved one or close friend. Sadly, dog bites are not uncommon and can cause serious physical injury and emotional pain.

But, who is liable for a dog bite in Massachusetts? Determining who is liable for a dog bite involves several different factors. In general, liability for dog bites depends on whether the bite caused damage, the age of the person bitten and whether the dog was being provoked at the time of the incident.

If a dog bite causes damage to person or property, the dog's owner or keeper is usually liable. If the owner or keeper happens to be a minor in such a situation, the minor's parent or guardian may be liable. If, however, review of a dog bite incident reveals that the animal was being teased, tormented or abused at the time of the attack, the owner or keeper may not be liable for the attack. Finally, even if a dog was being teased or abused and bit someone as a result, if the bite victim was age seven of younger the burden of proof will likely be on the defendant.

All pet owners must exercise responsibility with their animals and ensure that others are not harmed by their pets. A dog bite can do extensive damage, especially on younger children who are often victims of these attacks. A dog bite victim, or his or her parents, may learn more about dog bite claims from an experienced personal injury attorney.

Source: MALegislature.gov, "General laws," accessed on July 3, 2015

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