Can I use harmful force as protection from a dog attack?

As protection from a dog attack, the use of harmful force against a dog that is posing an immediate threat to ones self or a nearby person is allowable in order to prevent injuries. However, one is only permitted to do so when acting in self-defense or in the defense of others, not for revenge for a dog bite/attack or unprovoked harm.

When Use of Harmful Force is Appropriate as Protection from a Dog Attack

Individuals may use force as protection from a dog attack if they do so in defense of themselves or another person. For a dog to be believed a threat to others, it must show actions that lead the person to know or reasonably believe that the dog would attack.

The amount of force used should be appropriate to the degree of threat the dog presented. If the dog was attacking the victim, lethal force could be considered appropriate. Also, the person who uses force against the dog should be able to prove that the actions they took were the only available to prevent themselves or others from coming to harm or further harm.

When Use of Harmful Force is Inappropriate Protection from a Dog Attack

Attacking a dog just because it is barking or growling is typically inappropriate, especially if the dog is restrained or confined. For example, if the dog is growling and snapping at a person but is still restrained or confined to where it is not likely it would be able to inflict harm, the use of a gun against the dog may be considered inappropriate.

Likewise, if the dog has already attacked a victim and is fleeing the area and no longer threatening the victim, an argument may be made that harmful force would not be appropriate as the dog is no longer threatening the person’s safety.

Another case of where harmful force against a dog would be disallowed is when a person does so for revenge. If previously bitten by a neighbor’s dog, one is not permitted to go back and harm the dog for its actions. Instead, one should report the incident to police or animal control to have them assess the situation and take the appropriate action.

According to Iowa law statute 351.28, “The owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal, or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person, except when the party damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury.”

Seeking Help after a Dog Bite

Cases of dog bite injuries can become more complicated if harmful force was used by the victim to prevent or end the attack. In these situations, the dog owner may press criminal charges against the individual who harmed the dog, creating both a civil and a criminal case.

Walker, Billingsley and Bair can help Iowa families seek compensation for injuries caused by dog bites. Give them a call at 641-792-3595 to set up a consultation to discuss a dog bite and/or the use of harm as protection from a dog attack and how it may impact a claim.

Corey Walker
With 19 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.