What Recourse Do I Have If A Dog Attacks Another Dog?

You are walking down the street with your dog on a leash and another dog attacks it. What do you do now? When your dog is attacked by another dog, there are several things to consider in determining what action to take.

Steps to Take When Another Dog Attacks Your Dog

dog attacks another dog1. Assess Injuries

The first thing to do when a dog attack occurs is to assess any injuries that you may have as well as any injuries the dog may have. Dog bites can range from minor scratches to severe lacerations. The infections that can develop afterward can be worse than some bites. So, be sure to assess these and call an ambulance or go to the hospital if you have sustained any significant injury to your person. It is a good idea to take your dog to a vet or emergency vet clinic as quickly as possible even if the injuries seem minor.

2. Identify the Dog Owner

Identifying the dog owner is critical in dog-on-dog attacks. Often the owner of the canine victim will be so focused on taking care of the dog’s injuries that they forget to request contact information from the owner. When it comes time to make a claim for your dog’s medical costs, they have no way to identify them.  If you know who they are or where they live, great. You have what you need to find them.

Attacks in Parks and Public Places

When dog attacks occur in public places, it is important that you do not leave the scene without obtaining contact information for the other dog owner. A photo of their driver’s license is preferred. If they refuse, take a photo of the person and call animal control promptly. If they attempt to get in a car to leave, photograph the license plate. This information is critical not only for holding them accountable for their negligence in handling their dog but also so that animal control can determine whether they were properly vaccinated for rabies. Failure to obtain this information can result in you having to receive unpleasant rabies shots unnecessarily.

3. Get Medical Care

If you are injured due to a dog attack, you will want to seek medical care promptly to treat your injuries. If your pet is injured, it will need to be treated by a vet or emergency care veterinary center as soon as possible.

4. Call Animal Control

Always contact animal control after a dog attack. It is the law. Dogs can carry and spread rabies. The animal control officer will conduct an investigation to determine whether the dog is up to date on shots or not. If not, the dog will be quarantined for observation to ensure that you and your pet are not at risk.  Reporting the dog bite is the best way to ensure that an investigation is done and that the attack is documented in the event the dog strikes again.

4. Consider Your Legal Options

A. If People are Injured

When a dog attacks a person, the individual attacked has a right to bring a claim for personal injuries suffered in the dog attack. This includes the right to seek damages not just for medical expenses, but also for the pain, suffering, scarring, mental anguish, and physical impairment caused by a negligent dog owner. Because personal injury claims for damages done to a person allow for a broad range of intangible injury damages, many dog bite lawyers will handle your injury case on a contingency fee–so that you do not have to come out of pocket for the upfront costs of the case. Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., has been handling cases involving dog attacks on people since 1979. To learn your rights and legal options call us for a free consultation at 800-298-0111.

B. If Only Animals are Injured and the Dog Has A Measurable Monetary Value

If your dog has some sort of special measurable monetary value, you may wish to speak to a dog bite attorney about your options. Under Texas Dog Bite Law, the damages you may recover for the loss of a pet are limited to the reasonable cost of the pet unless the animal has some special characteristics that enable it to have a quantifiable value.  If the dog has special training such as a seeing-eye dog or a hunting dog, then you can make a claim for the costs associated with getting a dog with equal skills. Additionally, where a dog has certain, verifiable characteristics that give it a measurable monetary value, more than just its fair market value can be claimed as damages.  If the dog is a show dog, for instance, with earning potential, then you can show it had a higher value than its replacement cost. Barring these special circumstances, the value is limited to fair market value when a dog bites another dog.

C. If Only Animals are Injured and the Dog is Just a Pet

If your dog is simply a loved pet and no people were injured in the attack, you are limited in your recourse and may wish to file a claim on your own in Justice of the Peace (J.P.) Court. Since 1891, The Texas Supreme Court has held that household pets are mere “chattel” or “property” and thus, have no legally recognizable value other than the market value. On April 5th, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court had a chance to overturn this in the case of Strickland v. Medlen and declined to do so.  That case involved a dog that had been rounded up by animal control. The owner expressed interest in obtaining the animal’s release and went to get the money.  In the meantime, the animal was accidentally placed on the “euthanize” list and was killed. The owner sued for the value of the dog as well as for the infliction of emotional distress and mental trauma.

According to the Texas Supreme Court, there is no recognizable cause of action for mental anguish for a piece of property.  Since they considered a dog mere property, the Supreme Court declined to allow any recovery for anything more than the dog’s fair market value. If a dog attacks and kills another dog, this law would bar any recovery for mental anguish or emotional distress for the dog–leaving the recovery value at the fair market value of the dog.

D. Dangerous Dog Proceedings

If the dog is a particular menace to your community or you have specific knowledge of the dog being aggressive towards humans in the past, you may also wish to initiate proceedings to have the dog declared a Dangerous Dog under your local dog ordinances. Most City websites will have information on how and where to do this. It generally requires you to go to the J.P. Court or another designated place, fill out and file an affidavit swearing to the facts that you believe support declaring the dog dangerous. This affidavit triggers an animal control investigation. If they determine that the dog is dangerous, they will require the owner to provide proof of liability insurance and then follow strict handling guidelines if he/she is allowed to keep the dog.

What to Do When Only a Pet is Injured by a Dog

Dog bite lawyers generally are not needed for cases involving only an injury to a pet. Because Texas only allows for the recovery of the actual medical costs when only a dog is injured, it makes no sense to pay a lawyer to handle the case. There is no personal injury award that they can charge a contingency fee on so hiring a lawyer would likely mean coming out of pocket and paying the lawyer an hourly rate. This would likely eat up the recovery very quickly.

File on the Owner’s Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance

If the other dog owner is cooperative, then ask them for their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance information. You may contact them directly and submit the bills for your dog’s veterinary care. Beware that some homeowner’s policies exclude coverage for dog attacks. If the dog owner is not cooperative or has no insurance coverage, your next option to consider will be to file a claim in J.P. Court.

Filing in J.P. Court Without  Lawyer

You can file a claim in your local Justice of the Peace Court without a lawyer. J.P. Courts can be found in every county. They are commonly known as small claims courts. You may bring a claim with a value of up to $20,000.00 in J.P. Court and no lawyer is required. Visit your County’s website to obtain information on the closest J.P. Court and the various requirements and fees associated with the claim.

What You Must Prove

Before showing up at your court date, you need to familiarize yourself with the laws in your are pertaining to dogs. You will need to show both liability and damages to win your case.  Liability in a dog bite case can come from a strict liability claim or a negligence claim when it comes to dogs injuring other dogs.

  • Strict Liability. In order to prove that an owner is strictly liable for a dog attack, you must show that the dog had shown aggression towards another person in the past and that the owner was aware of it. One way to do this is to send a Freedom of Information request to the local animal control to obtain any prior bite reports on the dog. You can usually call your local animal control and they will walk you through how to do this.
  • Negligence.  Proving negligence means establishing that the owner had a duty to act and failed to do so.  One way to pursue this is to pull the local leash law ordinances and show that the owner failed to comply with the local leash law by allowing the dog to run at large. If there is no local leash law, you may be stuck proving that the dog owner was negligent in the manner in which he handled the dog and thus, allowed it to get off-leash and attack.

When to Speak To A Dog Bite Lawyer

Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., generally does not handle cases involving only injury to animals.  If you were physically injured in the attack, call us to discuss your rights. If only your pet was injured and it was a rare/exotic breed, a show dog, or had some other means of valuation beyond the emotional value to the owner that Texas law refuses to recognize, it may still be worthwhile to speak to a dog bite lawyer about your case.  Call us to discuss your legal rights, remedies, and the types of insurance that may apply to a dog attack case. However, absent the dog having a substantial financial value, your best bet may be to try to make a homeowner’s claim on your own or to bring a claim in small claims court if the attack was the result of negligent handling or the attacking dog has a history of prior attacks.



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Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., rooted in Christian values, exclusively handles personal injury cases, advocating for the rights of accident and negligence victims. Our Houston-based team, dedicated to compassion and excellence, handles cases across car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, and other types of cases with a commitment to personalized care. Upholding integrity and client-focused service, we strive for impactful legal outcomes. For a detailed understanding of our approach and team, visit our attorneys page.

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