What is the law for dogs that have previously bitten somebody?

There's no "one-bite rule” in Iowa, which requires a dog to have previously bitten a person or acted in a manner so that the owner would be aware of the dog’s propensity to bite in order to hold the dog owner liable for damages. So whether the dog has bitten somebody previously or not has no affect the victim’s ability to recover compensation for damages from the dog owner.

In fact, dog owners in Iowa are strictly liable for damages caused by their dog if it bites or attacks a person. Victims do not have to prove the owner was negligent in order to recover damages. To win their cases, claimants or plaintiffs need only to prove that the dog bit them, they suffered damages and the defendant owns the dog. They should demonstrate that they weren't engaged in illegal activity (like trespassing) at the time of the bite.

Why do some dogs bite people?

Dogs show aggression for different reasons. They might be territorial, possessive, protective or even afraid. Biting also can be a learned behavior, and a dog's training and environment may make it more or less likely to bite. If the dog is in an abusive home, for example, it might become more aggressive and likely to bite.

Owners whose dogs previously bit a person should take steps to avoid a repeat attack. In fact, Des Moines’ city ordinances declare a vicious dog is any that have attacked a person or that has a disposition to attack, cause injury, bite or snap at a person. Certain breeds are declared vicious, including the Staffordshire terrier breed, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, or even any dog that has the appearance of these breeds.

Dogs declared vicious must be confined in a house, pen or kennel or must be on a leash of no more than six feet. The dog may not be leashed to an inanimate object like a tree.

Ordinances vary by city, so be sure to check any applicable laws if your dog is has bitten somebody or has a propensity to bite, or if you were bitten by a dog. Make sure you report the dog bite if you’re bitten.

What legal options do bite victims have?

People who are victims of dog bites can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against dog owners. Bite victims may recover both economic and non-economic damages in a dog bite case. Economic damages include things like medical expenses, lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses associated with the injury, while non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering and disfigurement.

If you were bitten, contact a qualified attorney familiar with these cases. While the standard for liability is low in a dog bite case, an attorney can help victims receive fair compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. Walker, Billingsley & Bair represents dog bite victims in and around Des Moines. Contact our office at 888-435-9886 or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation.

Corey Walker
With over 20 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.