Visitor Question

Older dog attacked when personal space was threatened…

Submitted By: Kelly (Wyoming)

We have an older border collie. We know that in her old age she doesn’t like other dogs in her space. So while attending a town function downtown, she had her harness on and the leash looped around her neck to keep her close and other dogs out of her space. She can only move about a foot away from your side at this point.

We stopped to talk to some friends, and moved into the street to make sure the dog had enough personal space. While standing there another couple and their dog slowly start moving into the street. They continued to move closer to us even though there was room on the street and sidewalk.

Then they came up from behind us and their dog encroached on the space we created. At this point our dog snapped and made contact. The dog was injured by a small cut. Now the owners are saying we have to pay for the vet bills. But our dog has no history of aggression, and we feel we did everything necessary to prevent anything like this occurring.

Where do we stand? Are we liable? What should we do? Thank you.

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 Kelly,

While in most cases a dog’s owners are liable for injury or property damage caused by their dog, there is an exception. The State of Wyoming follows the “comparative negligence” rule.

Code Section1-1-109 of Wyoming Statutes reads:

“Contributory fault shall not bar recovery if fault is not more than 50% of the total fault of all actors. Damages diminished in proportion to the amount of fault attributable to claimant…”

What this means is if it can be proved the other dog’s owners contributed to the bite by negligently walking their dog too close to your dog, then the amount of vet bills you would be liable for would be decreased proportionately to the percentage of negligence of the other dog owners.

Moreover, if it can be proved the other dog owners were 51% or more liable for the injury to their dog, then they would be barred by law from recovery any amount of money.


Knowing the law is one thing, proving contributory negligence is another.

Talk with the other dog owners. Explain you believe they contributed to the bite by walking their dog unnecessarily close to your dog. If they have owned their dog very long they should be aware of the territorial aggression displayed by all dogs. Explain you believe they were at least 50% liable. With that said, offer to pay half of the vet bills.

If they won’t agree, then you may want to leave it up to them to sue you and defend yourself in court under the contributory negligence law. If the judge believes the dog owners were 51% liable, they would receive nothing. Maybe if you explain that to the dog owners they may agree to split the vet bills with you.

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) 647-2490.

Best of luck,


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