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Do “Beware of Dog” Signs Legally Protect Dog Owners From Lawsuits?

Do “Beware of Dog” Signs Legally Protect Dog Owners From Lawsuits?

Posted on June 4th, 2018

In Alabama, victims can sue pet owners if the pet causes injury or damage. Some attempt to warn people that a dog is on the premises, but that may cause more problems in the event of a lawsuit. In the interest of protecting yourself from legal consequences, you may choose to place a Beware of Dog sign on your property. After all, if you’re warning passersby to be cautious about your dog, they would be responsible for any injury that befalls them, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t as clear cut as it seems.

With ownership of a dog comes responsibility for his or her actions. When your dog bites someone, you may be responsible for the injury and face a lawsuit, especially if the attack occurs on your property – and some signs may make matters worse.

Signs Are Not As Helpful As They Seem

A Beware of Dog sign may or may not count as protection against lawsuits. In Alabama, the court is likely to consider that if you need a sign telling people to beware of your dog, then you already know that the animal is dangerous. This can still apply even if your dog has a lack of violent history.

Additionally, if your dog has bitten someone before or if other people have complained about the dog, the court will likely interpret this as awareness of your dog’s violent inclinations.

Neutrally Worded Signs Can Be Good Options

Pet owners do have other options than this kind of sign. A more neutral sign, like “Dog on Property,” can project the awareness of a dog without any implications that the dog may be dangerous.

A No Trespassing sign can provide a layer of legal protection from lawsuits. If someone is trespassing or committing a crime, the court will provide exceptions to dog bites, as the bit person was unlawfully on the property. As such, No Trespassing signs can be more helpful if someone decides to sue you over a dog bite.

Provocation Exceptions Exist

Alabama also has provocation exceptions to their dog bite laws, which can include No Trespassing signs posted on the property. If the bite victim provoked the dog into attacking, then the owner’s liability decreases. These exceptions can also apply in cases of animal abuse.

With so many variations across the country in dog bite laws and liability, it is important to understand Alabama’s specific dog bite laws to determine if a Beware of Dog sign can legally protect you from lawsuits.

Dog Bite Laws in Alabama

In Alabama, dog owners are liable if their dog bites someone on the owner’s private property, as long as the victim has a legal right to be on the property. Dog owners are also liable if their dogs chase after someone who was on the owner’s property and bites the passerby. Any unprovoked attacks under these conditions are the fault of the dog owner.

Alabama does have a provocation exception, so a provoked attack would not be automatically liable for a lawsuit. In this situation, the owner may attempt to prove he or she had no awareness that the dog was dangerous enough to bite another person.

No written protection exists if the owner has put up a Beware of Dog sign. However, if the dog bite victim was trespassing, a No Trespassing sign can help reduce liability in the event of a lawsuit.

Learn the Specific Laws

Like other state laws, the laws regarding dog bite liability can change. Researching Alabama’s state laws and contacting an attorney who specializes in animal bites are the best ways to learn how a Beware of Dog sign may help or harm you during a lawsuit.

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