How to Sue a Dog Owner Over a Dog Bite

Updated February 21, 2017

When you've been bitten by a dog or a dog has bitten an animal of yours, serious damage can occur. While you may not want to sue the dog owner over the bite, sometimes this becomes the only way to be compensated for the death of beloved animal or to cover the costs involved in treating a dog bite.

Write down the name and telephone number of the dog owner and any witnesses. You may need to contact witnesses to confirm your information in the lawsuit. If possible, write down addresses as well.

Get the dog bite treated, depending on the severity of the bite. If your animal has been bitten even mildly, it's safest to get her to a vet. Keep records, including copies of the medical bills and any photos of the bite. Most dog-bite statutes cover all dog-inflicted injury, not just bites.

Report the incident to the police or animal control. If the animal is still at large, do this first. You can also check with your local animal control department to see if there are any records for prior attacks or if the dog has been labeled dangerous.

Know your state's statutes for dog bites. To sue, a few states require you to prove that the owner did something wrong or was negligent. Make sure that you were in a place you were allowed to be, that you know for sure who the owner of the dog is and that you didn't provoke the dog bite.

Sue in small-claims court. You may be limited on the amount of money you can get from a dog owner, but you won't necessarily have to hire a lawyer or pay higher filing fees for civil court. You can buy a copy of "Everybody's Guide to Small-Claims Court" by Ralph Warner online at Nolo's website. You should also check with your state to see if it has free publications that tell you how and when to file papers, how to schedule a court date and what other rules and regulations you must follow.

Talk with a lawyer. Depending on the extent of the injury caused by a dog, you may need to sue in civil court. You should talk with a lawyer to find out your options as well as the cost involved in moving the lawsuit from small-claims. If you decide to move ahead, you may need to hire the lawyer to represent you.


Getting a picture of the dog that bit you may help your case in small-claims court.


You need to know what you must do before taking a case to small-claims court. For example, some states require that you send a letter of demand to the owner of the dog that bit you before you file papers.

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