Visitor Question

My dog was attacked but the at-fault party won’t pay vet bills…

Submitted By: Thea (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

On a Sunday morning I was walking my dog around the neighborhood where we usually go when a big dog suddenly jumped over 5ft fence and attacked and bit my dog (maltese). He was shaken and dragged while on his leash. The owner rushed outside but her dog took forever to let go of my dog, almost killing him.

I called my husband and we rushed our dog to the emergency vet. He got 3 staples, antibiotics and pain meds for a week. I called animal control and he showed up at the vet. The dog owner said she will pay for our vet bills but it has been 3 weeks and she still hasn’t paid us.

Can I file a claim through their insurance or do I need to get a lawyer? Thank you for any perspective you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Thea,

In this case, Santa Fe Municipal Code, Chapter 5  “Animal Service” is the controlling statute. §5-5 (d) reads in part:

“Animals located upon the property of the owner of the animal shall be restrained in such a manner as to secure the animal…”

“The animal shall be restrained in such a way as to prevent the animal from reaching outside the perimeter of the property…”

Based on the facts you present, clearly the attacking dog’s owner was in violation of Santa Fe’s Animal Code. You might bring this to her attention. It may prompt her to give more serious consideration to the matter.

If the dog owner persists in ignoring you, or fails to make arrangements to compensate you for the veterinary bills, you can consider filing a small claims action in one of Santa Fe County’s Magistrate Courts. You will not need an attorney to do so.

New Mexico Magistrate courts have jurisdiction to hear cases up to $10,000. You can download the forms and find additional information about the requirements for filing the small claims action at the New Mexico Court, Magistrate Section.

Learn more here: Dog-on-Dog Aggression

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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