It is always a confusing, emotional time when a beloved pet is accused of biting a person. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year in the United States. Along with the personal turmoil can come disastrous consequences both to you and your dog. There is the possibility of heavy financial responsibility and confinement, testing or even euthanasia of your pet. This is particularly true if you own a breed that is falsely perceived as vicious, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, or pit bulls. Luckily, the Tennessee Code outlines the steps you should take as a responsible pet owner to protect both you and your pets from such consequences.

Dog bite law for Clarksville, Montgomery County Tennessee can be found in the Tennessee Code Section 44-8-413. This law requires dog owners to do two things. First, we have a duty to keep our dog under reasonable control at all times. Second, we must prevent our dog from running at large. The law tells us that “running at large” means that a dog is wandering onto the premises of another, or along roads or any other public place. We all see this daily in Clarksville. Any owner who either fails to keep their dog under reasonable control (to include a dog running loose on the owner’s unfenced front lawn) or allows their dog to wander around can be held liable for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by that dog. In addition to the state code, dog owners in Tennessee should read and comply with both your city and county laws, which can be viewed here.

Luckily, there are some common sense exceptions to a dog owner’s liability in Tennessee. There is no liability for a dog that is doing police or military work or protecting someone from being attacked or is securely confined in a kennel or something similar. There is no liability if the victim provoked the dog. Also, there is another very important exception. Tennessee Code reads in part:

(c) (1) If a dog causes damage to a person while the person is on residential, farm or other noncommercial property, and the dog's owner is the owner of the property, or is on the property by permission of the owner or as a lawful tenant or lessee, in any civil action based upon such damages brought against the owner of the dog, the claimant shall be required to establish that the dog's owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities.

This exception realizes that dogs are protective of their personal spaces and of their family. Even the most mild-mannered pet can bite if it feels threatened by a stranger intruding into the dog’s territory. If your dog bites a person who is on your property at the time, that person bears the responsibility to prove that you either knew or should have known that your particular dog (not the breed in general) has dangerous tendencies.

In short, as responsible pet owners, we should keep our dog under reasonable control at all times, not allow the dog to wander from our property, and read and follow our city and county laws. Following these steps will largely protect us from a dog bite lawsuit in Tennessee and will protect our beloved pets from potentially devastating and unnecessary consequences.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376

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