Dogs can be unpredictable.  Even when an owner thinks that his or her dog is a “friendly” dog, it can still attack and bite a stranger, friend or family member.  The chance of biting a small child or baby is even more likely.  The question is whether anyone can sue the dog owner if they are injured by the dog.  The answer is yes and no.

Yes. The dog attack victim can sue the dog owner under certain conditions in Mississippi.

There is no specific statute in Mississippi as there is in other states that makes a specific ruling on dog bites or dog attacks.  Dog attacks come under more general rules of negligence.  If the victim and his or her attorney can prove that the dog owner was negligent in some way, then a lawsuit may be successful.  Negligence may be proved in a number of different situations.

  • The dog was released from its leash or allowed to run free in a public area where dogs were either forbidden or at least required to be on a leash.
  • The dog was known by the owner to have previous dangerous tendencies.  This might include the fact that the dog had already attacked or bitten other people before the incident under question.  It might be because the dog was of a particular breed that had a known record of being dangerous, e.g. a pit bull terrier or mastiff.

A dog attack victim’s cause of action against a dog owner is usually based on the dangerous-propensity rule.  The dangerous-propensity rule, under which an animal owner can be held liability for attacks by their animals, was first pronounced by the Mississippi Supreme Court in Poy v. Grayson, 273 So.2d 491 (Miss. 1973).  Under the dangerous propensity rule, an animal owner may be exposed to liability for an attack by his or her animal when there is proof that: (1) the animal has exhibited some dangerous propensity or disposition that the owner was aware of prior to the attack complained of; and (2) the owner reasonably should have foreseen that the animal was likely to attack someone.  The Mississippi Supreme Court over time has further defined and articulated exactly what behavior constitutes an exhibition of some dangerous behavior or disposition.  An actual physical attack is not necessary to put an owner on notice of his or her animal’s dangerous propensities.  Olier v. Bailey, 164 So.3d 982, 993 (Miss. 2015). Instead, the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that evidence of “barking, growling, and chasing” can be sufficient to put an animal’s owner on notice of the animal’s dangerous propensity.  Id.  (citing Mongeon v. A & V Enters., Inc., 733 So.2d 170, 172 (Miss. 1997)).  Any tendency of a dog to injure someone, even if directed out of playfulness, is sufficient to expose the dog’s owner who is aware of such tendency to liability.  Mongeon, 733 So.2d at 172.

Legal action is possible if you are attacked by a dog. Talk to an attorney

Dog attacks and dog bites can cause serious and long lasting injuries.  If you, or a member of your family, have been attacked by a dog in or around Jackson and you have evidence that the dog had a reputation for aggressive or dangerous behavior, or was of its leash in a public area where leashes were mandatory, you should contact the Diaz Law Firm as soon as you can. The sooner you act after an unprovoked attack, the more likely you will be able to successfully sue the owner.  The Diaz Law Firm provides free consultations and has a no win no fee policy.  Contact them at 601-607-3456.