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According to a recent article in the Burlington Free Press over 4.7 million people are attacked by dogs each year. Of these 800,000 are injured and about a dozen die.

The article goes on to say the Vermont is a “one bite” state.

Vermont’s laws provide an owner limited protection after a dog attack. Vermont is one of 17 “one bite” states that do not hold an owner responsible for damages when it’s the dog’s first attack.

This is not quite true. A dog owner may be liable for injuries caused by their dog’s attack if the owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous propensities that made it likely that it would bite or attack someone if proper precautions were not taken.

For example, an owner may have a particularly aggresive dog that they keep confined. However whenever approached by a stranger the dog barks, growls and lunges at the stranger. One day the owner forgets to restrain the dog and it bites. Forgetting to restrain the dog under these circumstances is probably negligent and the owner will be liable despite the fact that the dog had never bitten anyone before.

The “one bite” rule comes from the idea that if the dog has bitten before that first bite provides the owner notice that it is likely to bite again. But that is not the only way an owner may be found responsible for their dog biting someone.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Property Owners’ Liability.

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