Our neighbor’s dog escaped from their back yard and came onto our property. This prompted our dog to jump a fence (which he had never done) and give chase to the dog.
Our gardener happened to be there at the same time, so both dogs ran through an open gate from our front yard to the back yard.
The gardener, not knowing which dog(s) was ours, then closed the gate, thereby trapping both dogs in our back yard, unattended. Our dog took exception to having an un-neutered, un-invited male on his property and attacked the dog, causing extreme injuries.
The neighbor (who’s dog escaped and came onto our property) is claiming we and the gardener are liable for over $4,000 in vet bills. Are we liable? Can we defend against this? Thanks for any info 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.
From the facts you present, you would NOT be liable for any vet bills. It is clear your dog was docile at the time your neighbor’s dog came onto your property. Your dog wouldn’t have given chase “but for” the other dog having come onto your property.
It’s more than a reasonable presumption your dog was protecting its territory. In doing so, it lashed out and bit the trespassing dog.
Your gardener didn’t know which dog was yours, and which dog belonged to your neighbors. Presuming he didn’t, he couldn’t have known your dog would attack the other dog. The gardener appears to have acted in good faith by keeping the dogs confined so they would not inflict injuries on passersby.
The entire matter would not have occurred but for the negligence of your neighbor. In some cases, it might be argued each dog owner is partially liable, but from your facts you don’t seem to have incurred even one percent (1%) of contributory negligence.
If your neighbor takes you to court you can file a counter-claim for the costs of your transportation to and from the courthouse, lost wages if you had to miss work, and other reasonable costs associated with your defense of the case.
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.
Best of luck with your claim,
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