When it comes to dog bites, Nevada applies what is commonly known as the “one-bite rule“. This means that to bring a successful lawsuit, the victim would have to show that the dog had a previous history of aggression of which the owner should have been aware.
More specifically, an owner is held liable in a dog bite case when:
- The dog has previously bitten someone (“one bite” rule);
- The dog has been classified by animal control as a “dangerous” or “vicious” dog;
- The owner was negligent; or
- The owner was in violation of a municipal statute regarding dog ownership (“negligence per se”).
If a dog or owner fits into one of these categories, a dog bite victim may be entitled to recover compensatory damages from the dog’s owner or keeper. Such damages may include
- medical bills,
- lost wages,
- pain and suffering, and
- even punitive damages or wrongful death damages when a dog kills someone.
Owners of vicious dogs also face fines and possible jail time under Nevada’s criminal dog bite laws (NRS 202.500).
To help you better understand the law, our Las Vegas dog bite lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. When can an owner be sued for violating dog bite laws in Nevada?
- 2. Nevada’s criminal dog bite laws
1. When can an owner be sued for violating dog bite laws in Nevada?
In some states, owners are liable for damages whenever their dogs bite someone and cause an injury. Though there is no strict liability for bites by domestic animals.
In Nevada, an owner is not responsible to pay damages to a bite victim unless the dog is considered “dangerous” or “vicious” or the owner is negligent. Typical damages in these injury claims include costs of medical treatment.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the situations that can give rise to liability for dog bites.
1.1. What is the “One Bite” Rule?
Nevada owners are not automatically liable if their dog bites someone and has never bitten before. However, once a dog has bitten someone in Las Vegas even a single time, the dog is considered either “dangerous” or “vicious”.
The distinction is important. The dog’s classification determines the owner’s liability for future bites and possible criminal prosecution.
Clark County – as well as most Nevada cities and counties – impose a legal duty to report dog bites to their city or county Health Officer or Animal Control Officer and to provide all pertinent information requested by them.
This duty applies to both owners and to people who are bitten.1 Other localities that require this include (without limitation):
- The city of Las Vegas2
- The city of Henderson3
Dog regulations within the city of North Las Vegas tend to be slightly less restrictive. However, regardless of where you live, it is highly recommended that you review dog regulations for your city or county.
1.2. What are “Dangerous” Dogs?
According to Nevada law, a dangerous dog is one that has behaved menacingly toward people:
- Twice in 18 months, and
- Without being provoked by pain or torment, and
- When the dog is off-leash or “at large.”
It is not necessarily against the law to keep a “dangerous dog” in Clark County or Las Vegas. However, owners and keepers of dangerous dogs must comply with both state and municipal laws and regulations regarding dangerous dogs. These usually include (without limitation):
- Obtaining a permit from the Animal Regulation Officer,
- Keeping the pet securely enclosed on the owner’s private property and posting conspicuous warning signs containing the name and telephone number of the owner;
- When the animal is off-property, keeping it muzzled and leashed and under secure control;
- Spaying or neutering the animal,
- Obtaining a microchip for the animal,
- Maintaining a policy of liability insurance for the animal in an amount of not less than $50,000; and
- Obtaining prior written approval from an Animal Control Officer before selling, relocating or giving the animal away.4
Failure to comply with these regulations is punishable as a misdemeanor. More importantly, it could make an owner negligent “per se” for a dog bite under Nevada law. This could result in the owner or keeper being sued for damages in a dog bite lawsuit.
1.3. What are “Vicious” Dogs?
Nevada municipal regulations define “vicious dogs” as dogs that either:
- Have continued to behave menacingly after being classified as “dangerous”; or
- Have caused substantial bodily harm or death to a human being.
Once a dog has been designated as a vicious animal, it is no longer legal in Nevada for its owner to keep or even give the dog away. Keeping or selling a vicious dog could subject the owner to both
- a lawsuit for damages and
- to penalties (as discussed below).
If you or someone in your family has been bitten by a vicious dog, it is important to speak promptly to an experienced Nevada dog bite lawyer.
Our Las Vegas dog bite lawyers offer consultations to help you determine when an owner is responsible for your dog bite injuries.
1.4. When are dog bites negligence?
Despite Nevada’s “one bite” rule, owners might have to pay up if they acted with negligence. Negligence can be found where an owner fails to take reasonable precautions given the situation.
For example, letting a new dog with powerful jaws play unsupervised with a small child might be negligent. If an owner is negligent it does not matter that the animal has never bitten anyone.
Whether an owner in bite cases has been negligent is normally a question for the finder of fact – either the jury or in a bench trial, the judge. However, under certain circumstances, an owner may be liable under negligence “per se” law.
1.5. When are dog bites negligence per se?
Under Nevada’s “negligence per se” laws, dog owners are automatically considered negligent when their dog attacks someone while the owner was in violation of state or local animal control laws.
For instance, in Las Vegas, Henderson and unincorporated areas of Clark County dogs must be kept securely on the owner’s property by a
- leash or
- other adequate means.5
This means that if you were bitten by an off-leash dog on a public street or sidewalk, the owner may be liable even if the animal has never bitten anyone before.
1.6. Are dogs allowed on the Las Vegas strip?
Clark County sets strict limits on dogs on the Las Vegas Strip. Specifically, the area in which dogs are restricted is:
- Las Vegas Boulevard South from Sahara Avenue in the north to Sunset Road in the south, and
- On either side of this section of Las Vegas Boulevard South for a distance of two hundred yards.6
Law enforcement dogs and service dogs (as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act) are exempt from the restrictions. Other dogs are permitted within the restricted area solely between 5:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon each day, provided they are on a
- leash or
- other restraint not exceeding three feet in length.
2. Nevada’s criminal dog bite laws
It is not a crime to keep a dangerous dog in Nevada. However, once an animal has been designated dangerous, it is at higher risk of being designated as “vicious.”
NRS 202.500 makes it a crime to keep, sell or give away a vicious dog.
2.1. Definition of a “dangerous dog”
NRS 202.500 defines a dangerous dog as one that, without provocation, on two separate occasions within 18 months, behaves menacingly, to a degree that would lead a reasonable person to defend himself or herself against substantial bodily harm, when the animal was:
- Off the premises of its owner or keeper, or
- Not confined in a cage, pen or vehicle.
A dog may also be declared dangerous under Nevada law or by a local Animal Regulation Officer if it constitutes a physical threat to human beings or to other animals and, without regard to any previous behavior:
- The animal is used in the commission of a crime by its owner or keeper;
- While either at large or restrained, the animal causes serious injury or death to another animal that is not at large; or
- The animal exhibits a condition or behavior which causes the Animal Regulation Officer to believe the animal is a threat to public safety.7
2.2. Definition of a “vicious dog”
NRS 202.500 (c) defines a dog as “vicious” in the state of Nevada if:
- Without being provoked, it kills or inflicts substantial bodily harm upon a human being; or
- After its owner or keeper has been notified by a law enforcement agency that the animal is dangerous, the animal continues the behavior that got it designated as “dangerous.”
2.3. Exceptions to definition of dangerous or vicious dogs
A dog may not be declared dangerous or vicious:
- Based solely on the breed of the canine; or
- Because the animal was defending itself or its owner or keeper against:
- A person who was committing or attempting to commit a crime against the owner or keeper,
- A person or other animal unlawfully upon the owner’s premises,
- A person or animal that provoked the animal, or
- Another animal that was running at large or was otherwise in violation of animal regulations.
2.4. Criminal penalties for keeping or selling a vicious dog
Under NRS 202.500 (4), a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if he or she knowingly:
- Owns or keeps a vicious dog for more than 7 days after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious; or
- Transfers ownership of a vicious dog after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious.
Consequences of a conviction for keeping or transferring a vicious dog in Nevada can include:
- Up to 6 months in the county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.8
If substantial bodily harm results from an attack by a dog known to be vicious, its owner or keeper may be charged with a category D felony.
Punishment for a category D dog bite felony can include:
- 1-4 years in Nevada state prison, and/or
- A fine of up to $5,000.9
In addition, the animal may be put in impound, and a judge may order that the animal be humanely destroyed.10 Note that an owner who trains a dog for — or otherwise engages in — dogfighting faces prosecution as well.
2.5. Defenses to criminal dog bite charges
There are many possible defenses to charges of keeping, selling or giving away a vicious dog under NRS 202.500. Common defenses include (but are not limited to):
- Self-defense. Similar to people, canines may injure or kill out of reasonable self-defense. If a defense attorney can show that the animal’s actions were in response to someone provoking it with physical pain or torment, then the owner should not be criminally liable for the substantial bodily harm the animal caused.
- Lack of evidence. In all criminal cases, the prosecution bears the burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If a defense attorney can show that the state’s evidence is unreliable or insufficient, then the case may be dismissed for lack of proof.
- Lack of notice. Unless a pet owner knows (or should have known) that his/her dog was vicious, then he/she committed no crime by keeping the animal or transferring the animal to someone else. So if a defense attorney can show that the pet owner was truly unaware that the dog was vicious, then vicious dog charges cannot stand.
Are you a dog bite victim? Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been attacked by a dog in Nevada, we invite you to contact our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys by filling out the form on this page.
Our experienced Las Vegas dog bite lawyers can help you determine who is responsible and how much compensation you can recover.
Also see our article on Nevada leash laws. Also visit the Clark County Animal Control website.
For cases in California or Colorado, please see our pages on California animal bite laws and Colorado animal bite lawsuits.
- Clark Country Code 10.28.020.
- Las Vegas Municipal Code 7.24.020.
- Henderson Municipal Code 7.50.020 (A).
- See, for example, Las Vegas Municipal Code 7.16.010. See also these Clark County dog bite laws: Clark County Code 10.16.010 – Dangerous and vicious animal declaration. (a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section: (1) An animal may be declared dangerous by the animal control officer if on two separate occasions within eighteen months: (A) It behaved menacingly to a degree that would lead a reasonable person to defend himself against substantial bodily harm under the circumstances; or (B) It bit a person or animal, but without causing substantial bodily harm. (2) An animal may be declared dangerous by the animal control officer, without regard to any previous behavior, if: (A) It is used as the instrument in a crime of violence; (B) While either at large or restrained, it caused substantial bodily harm or death to another animal that was at large; or (C) It bit a person or animal, but without causing substantial bodily harm, if the animal is of a species capable of causing death or substantial bodily harm other than a domestic dog or cat. (3) An animal may be declared vicious by the animal control officer if: (A) It has killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm upon a human being or another animal not at large; or (B) After having previously been declared dangerous, with notice of the declaration having been provided to an owner or keeper, it continues to exhibit the same type of behavior that resulted in the declaration, or is in violation of the provisions of Section 10.16.030. (b) (1) An animal shall not be declared dangerous pursuant to this section for only behaving menacingly towards or biting: (A) Another animal that, or person who, provoked the animal, as a result of and to the extent of the provocation or prior provocation; (B) Another animal that, or person who, was unlawfully upon premises owned or occupied by the owner or keeper of the animal that was behaving menacingly or biting; or (C) Another animal or person, in connection with its use by law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties. (2) An animal may not be declared vicious pursuant to this section for inflicting substantial bodily harm or killing: (A) Another animal that, or person who, provoked the animal, as a result of and to the extent of the provocation or prior provocation; (B) Another animal that, or person who, was unlawfully upon premises owned or occupied by the owner or keeper of the animal that killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm; (C) Another animal that, or person who, was harmed or killed in connection with its use by law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties; or (D) If the death or substantial bodily harm was not proximately caused by that animal, such as may unintentionally result from a person placing his or her hands between the jaws of fighting animals. (c) The owner or keeper of any animal declared dangerous by the animal control officer may, within seventy-two hours after notice has been served personally, posted at the address of impound, or deposited in the mail to the last known address of the owner or keeper, request a hearing to challenge the dangerous determination by providing a written request for a hearing to Clark County Animal Control. Conditions not otherwise required will be tolled pending a determination on such hearing. Clark County Code 10.16.020 – Dangerous and vicious animals—Unlawful possession. It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly possess, house, shelter, quarter, own or in any other way have under his control, or to transfer ownership of, a vicious or dangerous animal within unincorporated Clark County, except as provided in this chapter. Clark County Code 10.16.040 – Permit renewal and revocation conditions. (a) Any permit issued under Section 10.16.030 shall be revoked if the animal without provocation bites or attempts to bite any person or animal lawfully upon the permit property or upon any other property, or if there is a violation of any provision Section 10.16.030. (b) Any person who keeps a dangerous animal after his permit has been revoked or any person who keeps, houses, quarters, or in any way has under his care or custody a dangerous animal without first obtaining a permit as set forth in Section 10.16.030 is guilty or a misdemeanor. (c) If, after renewal notice is sent to the last known address of the owner or keeper of a dangerous animal, such owner or keeper fails to request the annual permit renewal and inspection by 5:00 p.m. on the yearly anniversary date of the issuance of the permit, the animal shall immediately be turned over to animal control for impound and a fourteen-day hold will be placed on the animal to allow time for the owner or keeper to obtain a new permit, before the animal is released to the animal shelter for disposition. The fee for any inspection under this section shall be two hundred dollars per inspection, and the owner or keeper will be responsible for all fees and costs incurred while the animal is impounded.
- Las Vegas Municipal Code 7.36.050; Clark County Municipal Code 10.36.040; Henderson Municipal Code 7.08.020. See also Harry v. Smith, (1995) 111 Nev. 528, 893 P.2d 372; Wright v. Schum, (1989) 105 Nev. 611, 781 P.2d 1142; PetSmart v. Eighth Judicial District Court (2021) ; Swain v. Gafford (Nevada Court of Appeals, 2021)
- Clark County Municipal Code 10.39.010.
- NRS 202.500 (2). See also, for example, Las Vegas Municipal Code 7.16.010 (2).
- NRS 193.150.
- NRS 193.130.
- NRS 202.500 (5).