Yes. Unless they were negligent, dog owners in Nevada are generally not liable if their dog bites a person after having never bitten a person before. But once their dog bites a person, owners may be liable for damages depending on whether the dog is classified "dangerous" or "vicious."
Dangerous Dogs in Nevada
Dangerous dogs are defined as having behaved menacingly toward people:
- Two times in 18 months, and
- Without having been provoked by pain or torment, and
- While the dog is either off-leash or “at large.”
Dangerous dogs owners are required to follow all relevant state and municipal laws, some of which include obtaining a permit from the Animal Regulation Officer, keeping the dog under secure control, neutering, and maintaining a minimum $50,000 liability insurance policy.
Dangerous dog owners who do not follow the required rules may be liable for damages if their dog bites someone again. The owners face criminal charges as well for not following the rules, even if no one gets hurt.
Vicious dogs in Nevada
Vicious dogs are defined as having either:
- continued to act menacingly after being classified as “dangerous"; or
- caused substantial bodily harm or death to a person
The dog owner may be civilly liable to the victim (or victim's estate, if the dog caused a fatality). In addition, the dog owner faces criminal charges if he/she continues to keep a vicious dog.
Note that dogs may not be categorized as dangerous or vicious simply because of their breed or if the dog was defending itself or owner/keeper against either:
- A person who was committing -- or attempting to commit -- an offense against the owner or keeper;
- A person or other animal that was illegally on the owner's property;
- A person or other animal that provoked the dog; or
- Another animal, which was running at large or else in violation of animal regulations.
Dog owner negligence in Nevada
Even if a dog has not bitten anyone before, dog owners can still be civilly liable to dog bite victims if the owner was negligent. Negligence is failing to follow reasonable precautions given the circumstance. Specifically, negligence has four elements:
- The defendant has a duty of care;
- The defendant breached this duty;
- This breach caused an injury to the plaintiff; and
- The injury resulted in damages
An example might be allowing a pit bull to play with a baby while unsupervised. If the pit bull harms the baby, the owner could be liable for the baby's injuries even if the pit bull never bit anyone before.
Note that if a dog bites someone while the owner is violating animal control laws, then the owner is automatically negligent -- this is called negligence per se. Las Vegas personal injury attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Henderson law requires that dogs be kept on a leash or otherwise secured while on a public street. So if an off-leash dog on a sidewalk bites someone, the owner may be liable under negligence per se laws even if that was the first time the dog bit someone.
The dog bite victim in the above example would not have to prove to the court that the dog owner breached his/her duty of care -- that is presumed because the dog was not on a leash. Instead, the victim would just have to show that the owner's breach caused the victim's injuries.
- NRS 202.500.
- See, e.g., Las Vegas Municipal Code 7.16.030.
- NRS 202.500.
- See, e.g., Wright v. Schum, 781 P.2d 1142 (1989); Harry v. Smith, 893 P.2d 372 (1995).
- See, e.g., Atkinson v. MGM Grand Hotel, Inc., 98 P.3d 678, 680 (Nev. 2004); Scialabba v. Brandise Constr. Co., 12 Nev. 965, 968 (1996).
- Henderson Municipal Code 7.80.020.