I recently talked about the Texas dog bite law in thisarticle, and thought I'd provide a little more info on the subject of the one-bite rule.
The very important thing to know
The number one thing to keep in mind is that the one-bite rule is NOT a law. It's not even a rule that's etched in stone. It's basically a 'guide' to be used in case a dog bite situation occurs, so if your dog bites someone for the first time, don't automatically assume everything is fine.
The finer points of the one-bite rule
The one-bite rule is a guide used by the legal system to determine if the pet owner had any knowledge prior to an attack that his (or her) pet was dangerous, but even if it can't be proven that the dog owner knew of his pet's dangerous tendencies, the victim can still make a claim based on negligence.
DogBiteLaw.com provides an excellent definition of negligence in regards to pets - "Negligence is usually defined as an unreasonable action, or unreasonable omission to take action or give a warning. An example of an unreasonable action would be a dog owner letting go of his dog's leash when another dog approaches, so that the dogs can "play." An unreasonable omission might be the failure to keep a dog away from guests, where the dog is known to play too roughly and knock people down."
"Negligence per se" is another type of negligence. It basically means your liable if your dog bites someone because of your failure to comply with other laws. For example: If you're taking your unleashed dog for a walk at the park and he runs off and bites someone, then you can be held liable for the dog bite damage (first bite or not) because you were in violation of the leash laws.
Some helpful information
I know it's sometimes easy to picture our pets as something along the lines of kids in furry costumes, but we can't lose sight of the fact that our dogs are animals...and animals sometimes operate under their own set of rules. Frequently, problems (like biting or other aggresive behaviour) can simply prove to be nothing more than a failure to communicate adequately with your pet.
Growling, and sometimes biting, is just a form of communication for dogs; and they don't realize we don't speak that particular language. When this language barrier occurs, it can result in unwanted consequences.
One of the best ways to avoid these consequences (like worrying about the one-bite rule) is to learn how to speak your dog's langauge...or at least learn to understand it.
Below are links to two sites that provide some great information on understanding some of the reasons why dogs bite and what you can do to teach them to not bite.
Dog Obedience Advice - Useful training tips to prevent your dog from biting
DogBiteLegal - Some great info on dog aggression and how to understand it; includes a list of 5 different types of aggression and why your dog might be showing signs of one or all of them.
The latest statistics show that there were thirty-three fatal dog maulings in the US in 2007. Seven of them were in Texas. Don't become a statistic. If your dog show signs of aggressive behaviour then I strongly urge you to consider professional training as an alternative to dealing first-hand with the one-bite rule and the Texas dog bite laws.
Keep yourself and your pet happy and safe.
Have a question? Wondering if there's a certain law that affects you and your furry companions? Send an email to HoustonPetLawExaminer@gmail.com and I'll find out for you.
Disclaimer: The Houston Pet Law Examiner provides general legal information only. Please consult an attorney for legal advice.
Photo courtesy of Vagawi/Flickr