What Kind of Behavior Is Considered Provoking a Dog?
While Colorado’s strict liability dog bite statutes hold dog owners liable in just about any situation where their dog injures another during an attack, there are a few exceptions to this rule. One of these exceptions involves situations where a dog is provoked by the victim, resulting in the ensuing attack.
The reason for this exception is fairly obvious. Even the friendliest and best behaved dogs can become aggressive and attack someone when provoked. In these situations, the victim’s actions will have significantly contributed to their injuries, and it is only fair that this behavior is factored into whether compensation is awarded.
It should come as no surprise that many dog owners will use provocation as a defense in a dog bite lawsuit. However, in order for this defense to be successful, the dog’s owner will need to provide clear evidence that the dog was provoked.
What Is Considered Provocation in a Dog Bite Case?
Provocation occurs when an individual takes an action – either intentional or unintentional – that causes the dog to experience a radical change in its behavior, typically resulting in aggression out of a sense of self defense. For a dog to be considered provoked, this change in behavior must occur immediately after the action took place.
Common examples of provoking behavior include:
- Hitting a dog
- Stepping on a dog’s tail
- Startling a dog
- Trapping a dog in a small, enclosed space
- Pulling a dog’s ears, tail, legs or fur
It’s also possible to unintentionally engage in behavior that will provoke a dog. For example, most dogs are fiercely protective of their owners and will consider a perceived threat to their owner as a need to come to their defense. In this situation, a dog may be provoked simply by perceiving that their owner is in danger. In other situations, certain of the actions listed above, such as startling a dog or stepping on its tail, may have been unintentional, but still provoked the animal to the point of aggression.
Common Actions that Are Not Considered Provoking
Under normal circumstances, the following behaviors will typically not be considered provoking:
- Approaching a dog
- Addressing the dog’s owner
- Being seated and then rising to face the dog
- Playing with a dog
- Reaching out to pet a dog
- Feeding a dog
- Extending a hand or arm over a fence
- Helping to move an injured dog
Individual Circumstances and the Dog’s Past Behavior Impact What Is Considered Provocation
While dog owners may not be held liable if their dog was provoked, the provocation defense implies a standard associated with a “reasonable dog.” For example, if a dog owner knows the dog is typically overly nervous or sensitive by nature, they are responsible for keeping the dog out of environments where they are likely to be triggered into aggressive behavior. The same may hold true for a dog that has a history of aggression.
In addition to taking steps to prevent the dog from acting aggressively, the owner is responsible for warning others that seemingly harmless actions are likely to provoke the dog. Failure to provide this warning may also constitute negligence on the part of the dog owner and make it challenging to successfully use provocation as a defense.
Pushchak Law Can Help After a Dog Bite Injury
If you’ve been injured in a dog bite attack, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your damages. Brian Pushchak has made dog bite cases a primary focus of his practice, and he understands the arguments used by the dog owner’s attorney when trying to prove the dog was provoked. Mr. Pushchak will carefully investigate the circumstances of your attack to document any evidence that will reduce the likelihood that you are deemed to have provoked the dog.
In addition, you’ll benefit from Pushchak Law’s unique Informed Decisions Approach™ which is focused on ensuring you achieve the best possible outcome to your case. Mr. Pushchak will listen closely to your story and discuss your desired outcome for your case in order to recommend the best legal strategy to achieve your goals. But you will always remain in control. As part of this approach, Mr. Pushchak will educate you regarding your options and engage you in the process of determining the best strategy to pursue. This is the best way to ensure we are aligned with your best interests every step of the way.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Pushchak Law serves clients in Denver and throughout the surrounding areas of Colorado.
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