Different states have different regulations regarding dog ownership.
West Virginia has one of the more strict laws, according to which the owner is liable if their dog bites someone while loose.
This dog bite law means that the victim doesn’t even have to prove the owner knew their canine is violent!
While this scares many pet owners, there are some defenses they can use in case of a lawsuit. Anyhow, here are some dos and don’ts for dog owners from West Virginia.
Don’t let your dog loose outside of your backyard
This is probably the most important precautionary measure you as a dog owner need to take. According to West Virginia dog bite laws guidelines, if your dog was loose when he bit someone, you’re the person responsible. In fact, the owner is liable for any damages their dog makes while running lose.
If your dog bites someone while running at large, the owner is automatically considered guilty. In other words, there is no need to prove the owner’s negligence.
If the alleged victim can’t prove your dog was at large, you may be released from charges thanks to the ‘one-bite rule’. This rule enables the dog owner to lose liability if this is the first incident.
If you have a vicious dog, monitor him well
A vicious dog is any dog that has bitten anyone before. If you know that your dog exhibits any aggressive behavior, you are liable for his future actions. Even if you don’t think your dog is aggressive, there are some actions that, according to law, meaning you know your dog’s behavior. This includes:
- Barking at strangers
- Jumping on people
- Growling and snapping at people
- Barking at people over the fence
- Fight training
- Fighting with other dogs
- Complaints about your dog
Sadly, as you can see, even complaints about your dog mean your dog is deemed aggressive. While there is nothing you can do to prevent them, you can make complaints less likely to happen.
Don’t keep vicious dogs
While this one is self-explanatory, in West Virginia this part is essential. Keeping aggressive dogs is illegal, and if there is any proof that your dog is vicious, you’ll be liable for him. If your dog has the habit of biting or attacking other people, you will pay a fine, or even face some jail time. Also, the state has the right to kill your dog if he has even the shortest history of violent behavior.
Keep Your Dog on the Leash all the Time
If your dog injured a person while he wasn’t running at large, this can make things somewhat easier for the owner. On these occasions, the injured person needs to prove that it was the owner’s negligence that caused the injury to happen.
If your dog wasn’t deemed vicious before, this could be good news for the owner. To prove negligence, the injured person needs to demonstrate that the owner could have predicted the dog’s aggressive behavior.
The emphasis for this needs to be on the dog’s past behavior, something that is hard to do if your pooch hasn’t been vicious before. However, if the injured person can showcase that your dog exhibited any of the violent behaviors we have mentioned above, you will be strictly liable for it.
Train your dog properly
A well-trained dog will rarely exhibit any signs of aggressive behavior. If you socialize your dog from an early age, he isn’t likely to be aggressive.
A dog who is used to other dogs and people from puppyhood has higher chances of being friendly. Also, when a dog knows to walk beside you and to obey commands, you can easily control him. This is extremely helpful when you need to avoid certain dangerous situations.
Don’t keep “DANGEROUS DOG” posts
While people feel safer having “BEWARE OF DOG” posts on their fences, in West Virginia, this is a bad idea. Such signs mean you are aware of your dog’s aggressive behavior – even if the sign is there just for the aesthetics.
While “DANGEROUS DOG” signs don’t necessarily mean your dog is aggressive, legally this is the same. This can be used against you in case your dog ever bites someone, and this isn’t something you want.
Get a license for keeping an aggressive dog
If you happen to have an aggressive dog, you are allowed to keep it under certain circumstances. Under West Virginia Code you can get a special license from the county assessor for keeping such a dog. This still means you have to keep your dog in such a way that prevents him from endangering another human or pet. This includes keeping him from harming anyone who gets on your property.
It isn’t easy to deal with the law in any state or country in case your dog bites someone. However, if you happen to live in West Virginia, things maybe just a bit more difficult for you. While proving liability isn’t as easy as it seems, one wrong step may mean you have to take very good care of your canine.
West Virginia has strict rules and guidelines about keeping vicious dogs. While you imagine vicious dogs as rabid creatures who run around biting everything, this isn’t the case legally. Any dog who exhibits signs of aggressive behavior is considered vicious in the eyes of the law. Just one serious report may have to cause you to change the way you’re keeping your dog.
While there is no guarantee of what will happen if your dog bites or attacks anyone, it’s better not to risk it. Train your dog well and keep him on a leash all the time, especially during walks. The punishments for your dog’s bad behavior can be quite expensive.
Not just that, but you may be left without your companion, as euthanization is a common ‘solution’ for a vicious dog ‘problem’. Sadly, in most cases, the owner’s bad training and socialization methods are the cause for the pet’s misbehavior. Don’t let this happen to you.