Tennessee’s Dog Bite and Dog Leash Laws

January 5th, 2022 by Attorney John Colvin

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of all households (or 48,255,413 homes) in the United States have one or more dogs. There is no question – Americans love dogs. But what happens when man’s best friend isn’t so friendly?

In Tennessee, dog owners can be held responsible if their dog bites another person. This means that if you have been attacked by a dog in TN, you can file a claim with the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. With the help of a Winchester personal injury lawyer, you can recover financial compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more.

Attorney John R. Colvin advocates for injury victims throughout the Tennessee Valley. Our law firm will fight for your right to full compensation – and won’t ever charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more, give us a call to schedule a free initial consultation.

Tennessee Dog Bite Laws

In many states, dog owners can be held strictly liable for any injuries that their dogs cause. This legal standard means that the injured party does not have to prove that the owner did anything wrong or knew that the dog was dangerous. In other states, the “one bite” rule applies, which holds that a dog owner can be held liable if they had prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous.

Tennessee is unique in that it uses both standards. Under the TN Dog Bite Statute, a dog owner can be held strictly liable if (1) they failed to keep the dog under reasonable control at all times; or (2) the dog is running at large. In other words, if a dog isn’t under the owner’s control or is running loose, then it doesn’t matter if the dog had never bitten anyone before. The owner will be held responsible for any injuries that their dog causes.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, a dog owner is not strictly liable for the injuries that their dog causes if:

  • The dog is a police or military dog and the injury occurred in the course of the dog’s official duties;
  • The injured person was trespassing on private, nonresidential property;
  • The injury occurred while the dog was protecting the owner or another person from attack by the injured person;
  • The injury occurred when the dog was securely confined in a kennel or crate; or
  • The injury occurred because the injured person harassed, disturbed, or provoked the dog.

There is also a “residential exception,” which provides that if a dog hurts someone while they are on the owner’s property, then the injured person must prove that the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities. This means that if a person is hurt by someone’s dog while at their home, they can only hold the dog owner liable if the dog was known to have bitten someone before.

These laws can be a bit complicated, with different rules applying in different situations. The bottom line for dog bite victims in Tennessee, however, is that if you are attacked by a dog, you may be able to recover money for any losses that you suffered. A skilled Tennessee dog bite attorney can help you determine what you may need to prove in order to recover for your injuries.

Are Dogs Required to Be on a Leash in Tennessee?

A dog owner can be held strictly liable if their dog bites someone while running at large or not under their control. As a general rule, dogs must be under the control of their owner or caretaker at all times. Dogs cannot run loose unless they are engaged in legal hunting or herding.

If a person violates these laws, they may be charged with a criminal offense. This is true even if the dog is wearing a collar and has the appropriate tags. Depending on what the dog is doing when it is running loose, an owner or caretaker may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor or even a felony if their dog hurts someone while running at large.

If you are bitten or attacked by a dog that is running loose, then you may be able to recover compensation from the dog’s owner under a principle of strict liability. You may also be able to recover money for a child who was hurt by a dog in TN. An experienced Winchester personal injury attorney can review your case and help you file an insurance claim against the dog’s owner.

I Was Bit By a Friend’s Dog and I Don’t Want to Sue Them. What Can I Do?

When a person is bitten by a dog, they typically file a claim with the owner’s insurance company – not the owner themselves. This means that if your friend’s dog bit you, you wouldn’t be suing them directly. Instead, you would be filing a claim against their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. 

This may still feel uncomfortable to you, but remember that your friend pays for insurance for a reason. A dog bite injury can cause significant losses, and you should not have to bear them yourself. A skilled Winchester, TN dog bite attorney will fight for your right to full compensation.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Dog Bite in Tennessee?

Generally, a dog’s owner can be held financially responsible for any injuries that their dog causes. An owner includes a person who regularly keeps or exercises control over a dog. A person who has temporary control over a dog – such as a dog sitter – isn’t considered an owner. Similarly, a landlord isn’t considered an owner of a tenant’s dog and cannot typically be held liable for any injuries that a dog caused.

There may be situations where a person who doesn’t own a dog can still be held responsible for a dog attack. For example, if a landlord knew that a tenant’s dog had vicious tendencies and could require the tenant to remove or restrain the dog, they may be held liable. If you have been bitten by a dog, reach out to attorney John R. Colvin to schedule a free consultation about your claim.

Does Tennessee Have a “One Bite” Rule?

Yes – in limited situations. If a person is bitten by a dog in someone’s home or on their property, then strict liability does not apply. To recover compensation for their injuries, they will have to prove that the owner knew that the dog was dangerous – which is typically done by showing that the dog had bitten someone before. This is known as the “one bite” rule.

Otherwise, a dog bite victim does not typically have to show that the owner knew that their dog was dangerous (strict liability). If you have any questions about whether you have a viable dog bite claim, reach out to John R. Colvin, attorney at law, to schedule a free consultation with a Winchester, TN personal injury attorney.

Help for Tennessee Valley Injury Victims

There are few things that are more traumatic than being attacked by a dog. If you have been hurt by a dog, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. Our law firm can help.

At the Law Offices of John R. Colvin, we are dedicated to helping people who have been injured in car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, and other types of personal injury claims. For each case, our goal is to help our clients get the maximum compensation for their injuries. To schedule a free claim review, give our office a call at 877-359-7916 or fill out our online contact form.

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Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama