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Lawsuits & Litigation

My Dog Bit a Property Trespasser. Can They Sue Me?

— August 15, 2021

If someone, most likely a person in your neighborhood, trespassed on your property, got bitten by your dog, and is now threatening to sue, you can rest easy.

Picture this: you are drinking your morning coffee when your doorbell rings. The man outside hands you an envelope and declares, “You’ve been served.” You open the envelope and discover a neighbor is suing you because your dog attacked them, even though you keep your dog in the yard, enclosed by a fence, and only take it out on a leash. The situation sounds terrible, but how likely is it? We will talk today about an accidental interaction between dog and neighbor because a thief or ill-intentioned trespasser would not admit to being on your property for any reason.

Can they sue?

In short, yes. Anyone can sue anyone for anything, as long as they think they have a legal claim. The real question here is, “will they win?” because they might not have a case to begin with. The legal system has its hands full of entitled people who think suing is synonymous with winning a legal process and earning compensation. We also have the occasional money sharks who prey on unsuspecting people and convince them to settle on cases that should never exist. Bottom line, there are many kinds of individuals who throw lawsuits left, right, and center. It does not mean they will also win the said lawsuits; they only start them, which is well within their right.

Dragging someone in front of a small claims court is no easy business, though, so while they legally can sue, they will likely go through some preliminary steps before having a subpoena served to your door. Then, they can come to you, shouting and threatening with a lawsuit, demanding compensation, etc. If you know you are in the right, there is no need to panic, get scared, or give in to their intimidation tactics.

What to do about the “dog meets suspicious neighbor” situation?

To make sure that even if you end up lawyered-up and in front of a judge, you will have nothing to worry about, we have prepared some steps for you to follow. But, of course, these are just guidelines, and you should adapt them according to the laws of the state you live in and your personal life.

Step 1: Research

Learn all there is to know about your dog before you even get it! See if it is a typically aggressive breed and check if you can keep that breed in your state. Find out how much exercise the dog needs and if you should create an enclosed area outside where it can roam free. Also, research how to build an enclosure it cannot leave: some breeds can jump over 6 ft without a running start, so be aware of your dog’s natural abilities.

Step 2: Keep up with the law

Read up on the legislation around dogs and dog handling in your state. It is not enough to know that the law allows you to keep the breed you want; you need to know how to handle it, too.

For example, some breeds deemed “aggressive” must be on a leash and always muzzled if they are not in your house or enclosed space. In addition, you may want to check with a personal injury lawyer to see the consequences of your dog attacking or biting someone. Visit for more information and consultations! An expert attorney will tell you everything you need to know about how your state’s laws interpret “trespassing” and “ill-intent,” especially if your neighbor somehow ended up in your yard, facing the dog at night, when they both should have been sleeping.

Step 3: Be prepared

No matter the breed of dog you have, it can become aggressive if threatened or mishandled. Be prepared for neighbors to complain that your dog is destructive or bothersome. A good idea coming from specialized attorneys is to install at least one CCTV camera that covers the entire area your dog can access outside and keep it on at all times! It will come in handy for disproving claims that incriminate the dog and make the trespasser innocent. A camera is also an excellent tool to use if some individuals attempt a theft crime on your property. We’ve seen the movies, thieves can disable home security systems, but it is not THAT easy.

Step 4: Put up warnings

Image by Nicola Carter, via
Image by Nicola Carter, via

If you know your dog to be reactive, place signs on the fence of the area it has access to, announcing “no trespassing,” “beware the dog,” “aggressive dog,” and so on. But, of course, these are not mandatory or legally binding in any way. Still, in case of an accusation, you can argue that whomever the dog bit ignored the visible warnings and willfully took their chances. We are, after all, talking about a case of someone trespassing on your property, despite it being against the law.

Wrapping up

If someone, most likely a person in your neighborhood, trespassed on your property, got bitten by your dog, and is now threatening to sue, you can rest easy. They did not belong on your property in the first place. If you know you have handled your dog according to the law, you have nothing to worry about. Your dog guarded you and your property against an intruder, so it deserves a good round of pets, treats, and an honest “Good dog!”

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