How is a Dog Deemed Dangerous in Indiana?

Indiana dog bite laws focus on negligence, the “one bite” rule, and strict liability. In Indiana, strict liability falls not only on the owner, but can also land on the possessor or handler of the dog. The state does have strict rules for how a dog is determined “dangerous” and instead of labeling the dog as a “dangerous dog,” the state views the dog as a dangerous propensity – meaning that it is likely to harm a person.

What is a Dangerous Propensity?

The Indiana courts have defined “dangerous propensity” as a propensity or tendency for a dog to act in a way that might endanger the safety of an individual or property in a certain situation. A dog is not labeled as a dangerous propensity just because it barks at strangers or because a person is afraid; instead, the dog must exhibit signs that it is a true danger to humans or property.

Holding the Owner Responsible

If a dog does attack a person, the owner or handler can be held responsible for that act. A dog owner does have a duty to keep the dog under reasonable control, and to care for the dog to ensure that it does not attack others. In Indiana, a dog is not presumed dangerous. However, animals are not entitled to a free bite before owners can be held liable for the attack. Therefore, if an owner’s dog attacks someone, and never has before, the owner can still be held liable in civil court for any damage that occurred because of that attack. But, the victim must show that the owner ignored his or her duty to protect the public from the dog, or knew that the dog was likely to cause harm to another.

What About Landlords?

If a landlord allows a dangerous dog on the premises, could the landlord and tenant both be liable for the injury? In general, the landowner is not liable for damages caused by a owner’s dog – unless the landlord had actual knowledge that the dog posed a threat, or had a dangerous propensity. Just because a dog escapes from the property or has in the past does not mean the landlord knew that the dog posed a threat to the public. Instead, the landlord must have actual knowledge, such as being informed that the dog had a dangerous propensity or the dog had attacked a person on the property before; therefore, the landlord obviously knew the dog was a threat and allowed it to stay anyway.

Another way to prove that the landlord had actual knowledge is if the landlord cared for the dog at any time, or harbored the dog for the tenant. For example, the landlord wanted to keep the dog for a few days to assess the liability. The dog attempted to attack the landlord on several occasions; therefore, the landlord knew that the dog had a propensity for violence and should not have allowed that dog to stay on the property.

Were You Injured by a Dangerous Dog? Contact an Attorney Right Away

Even if this was the dog’s first attack, the law allows you to hold the owner or harborer accountable for the actions of the animal. To explore your options after a vicious dog attack, speak with an attorney from Jacobs Law, LLC. We offer free consultations, so schedule yours now at (317) 794-2024 or fill out our online contact form with your questions.