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Liability For Dog Bites Under a Sitter’s Watch

Alternatives to Dog Bite LawsuitsLiability for dog bites depends on the laws in each state and the circumstances surrounding the attack.

In both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, owners are strictly liable for any and all damages their dog causes during an attack, regardless of whether or not the pet has shown aggression or a propensity to bite in the past. In other states, dog bite victims may have to prove that the person responsible for the dog either knew the dog was dangerous and/or was negligent in its handling.

When a person is handling a dog who is not its owner, such as a pet sitter or a friend or family member who is watching the dog, and someone gets bit, determining liability can be somewhat ambiguous.

If you were bitten or attacked by a dog under the care of a sitter, you may be able to file more than one claim against the dog’s owner, its sitter, or potentially even the company the sitter worked for if you hired your sitter from a third-party service or app. Here’s what to know about liability for dog bites that happen in the care of a pet sitter and how to get legal help when you need it most.

Liability If a Dog Bites Someone While In the Care of a Pet Sitter

A dog owner that leaves their dog with a sitter is still responsible for the dog’s actions in the event of an attack on someone else in strict liability states like New Hampshire and Massachusetts. While owners are still held liable even if they never suspected their dog would become violent, a judge may award a dog bite victim with punitive damages if the owner knew their dog was violent or prone to attack and nevertheless left them with a pet sitter.

This may be made worse if the owner had knowledge of the dog’s previous vicious behavior and also failed to notify the sitter. In any event, if a dog bites someone while in the care of a pet sitter, the pet owner is accountable for damages and typically pays them through a claim with their homeowner’s insurance provider.

Liability If a Dog Bites the Pet Sitter

If the dog bites the sitter while in their care, the owner of the pet is again responsible for the dog’s actions whether or not the dog had previously displayed a history of violence or whether or not they knew of this history. Under strict liability laws, a sitter is not held accountable for a dog attack on someone else or themselves, even if they knew the dog was violent and accepted the job.

Furthermore, the owner is still responsible for damages arising from an attack even if the sitter engages in behaviors that make it more likely for the dog to attack, such as abuse or malnourishment.

In cases such as this, however, a judge may opt to reduce the amount of damages paid to the victim if the owner can prove the victim, whether or not they were the sitter, provoked the dog. Or, a judge may simply opt not to award additional damages beyond the basic economic damages that the victim incurred, like medical bills.

Do Petsitting Services Cover Dog Bite Damages?

In most cases, petsitting services carry basic insurance protection for their sitters, pet owners that use the service, and the pets in the sitters’ care. With that said, it’s crucial to note that many exceptions apply. Injuries that may not be covered are those to dog groomers or walkers that the sitter uses or their family members and damages to property that results from a dog attack or even just a dog digging, scratching, or chewing.

When to Involve an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney in Massachusetts or New Hampshire

If you are a pet sitter and were bit by a violent dog or you were someone who was attacked by a dog in the care of a pet sitter, the experienced dog bite attorneys at Mazow | McCullough, PC can help you. Our lawyers are zealous and compassionate, assisting you with medical care, PTSD support, and connecting you with other resources at the same time they are looking into your case to determine every potential route of financial restitution.

Contact our office now for an appointment to ask questions or get more info about dog bite law in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, or to book your appointment for a one-on-one consultation with a lawyer. Call our Salem, MA office at (978) 744-8000 or toll-free at (855) 693-9084.

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