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Service Dog Bite Cases

Posted on: August 12th, 2020

When it comes to dog bite cases, it’s all too easy to imagine that only poorly trained, aggressive, or unruly dogs are the only ones at the hands of dog bites that cause serious personal injury.  As dog bite attorneys, we know that, unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes, it’s a service dog at the attacking end of a bite. If this happens, what do you need to know, and how does the service dog’s designation change the facts of a personal injury case? Here’s a little more information.  

Service Dogs  

It’s important to know that there are different designations within the service dog and service animal space. We’ll cover emotional support animals later, as that has been the fastest-growing area of service animals recently, but for now, let’s focus on service dogs that have been trained to provide specific and critical, often life-saving help to their owners.  

Service dogs are trained extensively and specifically to meet the needs of their eventual owner. They spend more than a year in a home where they are trained on good behavior, the critical needs of people with disabilities, mental illnesses, and other criteria that allow an owner to apply to be placed with a service dog. Because these dogs are trained to react well, and specifically, in high-stress circumstances, it is highly unlikely that a dog bite will come from a traditionally trained service dog. If it does, you have to take into consideration the protections both the owner and the service dog have under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).  

Emotional Support Animals  

A growing trend for a number of valid reasons, emotional support animals are a different story in terms of protection when it comes to the letter of the law. The requirements to qualify an animal – dog or otherwise – as an emotional support animal are far fewer than what it takes to train a dog specifically for service. Because these animals do not receive the same training, it cannot be guaranteed that the dog’s demeanor will match that of a service dog. The ADA does not protect emotional support animals, which is important to note.  

The ADA  

The ADA protects service animals and their owners from, well, almost everything. Because the service animal has been specifically trained to help and protect the needs of their owner, any bite from a service dog would have to be proven, beyond any doubt, to have happened completely and entirely unprovoked. That’s not exactly an easy task, especially when paired with ADA protections.  

 The short answer, as is often the case in matters of the law, is: it’s complicated. The factors of your individual situation must be considered fully and wholly before a case it presented or taken to court. If you were bit by a service dog and are unsure what to do next, contact us for a free consultation 

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