Last Updated: 9/21/2023
Dog parks are a great place for owners to take their beloved canines so they can run free and socialize. But what happens if a fun day turns into a trip to the emergency room because of a dog bite at the dog park? Do those who use a dog park assume the risk or does liability apply when injured?
How Negligence May Apply in an Attack at a Dog Park
One of the benefits to a dog park is that it's usually optional whether to keep the dog on a leash. This means that even if the city has a leash law, it wouldn't apply in the event of an attack at the park where the owner is allowed to let the dog off the leash. But that doesn't mean if the dog bites someone, no one is liable.
In general, the same rights a person has outside a dog park apply in the park as well. That means a dog owner is liable for injuries and damages his or her dog causes to others with limited exceptions. Negligence of the dog owner or another party could affect liability as well.
Injuries Resulting from a Dog Bite at a Dog Park: Owner Liability
While negligence might play a role in some dog bite cases that occur at a dog park – such as an owner knowingly allowing a dangerous dog loose – Iowa’s dog bite laws state that the dog owner is strictly liable for his or her dog’s actions that cause injuries. So even if the dog owner was completely responsible and the dog bit someone anyway, the dog owner is still liable for damages.
However, if the dog has rabies and bites another person, the dog owner is not liable for damages unless the owner knew the dog had rabies and could have prevented the attack. If the dog owner knew the dog had rabies and took it to a dog park anyway, then the owner is likely liable in this situation.
Injuries Resulting from a Dog Bite at a Dog Park: Park Liability
Sometimes the owner of the park is also negligent and liable for injuries. This might be the case if the park owner is aware that a dog owner constantly breaks the rules and brings an unsafe dog to the park but fails to address it. This can be a very complex scenario, however, and in most cases it’s the dog owner alone who is liable, so victims who believe the park might be liable should speak with an attorney.
Further, if the park is privately owned, it may be easier to file a claim as opposed to a park owned by a local government, which might be immune from liability in some cases or may require the claimant meet certain criteria to file the claim.
Recovery of Damages from a Dog Bite at a Dog Park
It's important to consult with an attorney to learn if you have a valid case and which party or parties might be liable for damages. The next step is to file a claim for damages. Legal counsel can help determine the types of compensation to seek, which will depend on the case details.
Some compensation the victim may be due are medical bills. This may include future medical expenses as well. When someone is unable to work while recovering, the victim may recover compensation for lost wages. Other damages could include pain and suffering and emotional distress. If there is permanent scarring from the wounds, it's also possible to recover damages for disfigurement.