Have You Been Injured? We're Ready to Fight for You.

What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?

Published on Feb 27, 2024 by Thomas Law Offices.

In this article, we’ll look at what happens if a dog bites someone on your property in Missouri.

Key Takeaways:

  • Missouri law makes dog owners responsible for the damages caused if their dog bites someone.
  • There are a few situations in which an owner may not be liable—most notably if the victim was trespassing or provoked the dog.
  • It is a crime to own a “dangerous dog” in Missouri.

Missouri Dog Bite Laws

The Missouri state statute regarding what happens if a dog bites someone reads:

“The owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog, is strictly liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s or possessor’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

This makes dog owners in Missouri legally responsible for harm caused by their pet. So if a dog bites someone on your property, you can be held liable.

There are a few points in this passage of the Missouri statute that are important to dog bite cases. Missouri dog bite laws allow that:

  • The owner is responsible if the dog attacks someone who was on the owner’s property lawfully, another private property lawfully, or public property.
  • Unlike many other states, the owner is still responsible even if they had no knowledge of their dog ever being aggressive or vicious in the past.
  • The owner may not be liable if the person bit by the dog was trespassing on their property.
  • The owner may not be liable if the attacked person provoked the dog into biting them.

Each state has a distinct set of laws governing dog and other animal attack situations, so it’s important to work with a lawyer practiced in your area of jurisdiction who understands local statutes.

Dangerous Dog Laws in Missouri

In addition to laws holding pet owners liable if their dog bites someone, Missouri has what is called a “dangerous dog” law.

This law penalizes any person who keeps a dog known to have bitten someone in the past, and the dog bites someone again. Keeping a dangerous dog is a class B misdemeanor, unless there is serious injury or death involved. In such cases, the following classifications apply:

  • Class A misdemeanor if the attack results in serious injury to any person
  • Class E felony if the attack results in serious injury, and the previous attack also caused serious injury
  • Class D felony if the attack results in the death of any person

What Happens if a Dog Bites a Trespasser on Your Property?

It’s common for people to keep dogs for the purpose of protecting the family and keeping out intruders. In most cases, you won’t be responsible for damages if your dog attacks someone breaking into your property.

If a person is unlawfully on your property and your dog attacks them, you will likely not be liable for their medical bills and other damages. A trespasser could be someone passing through your property without your permission, or someone there for an expressly criminal purpose. You will need to work with an attorney who can help you investigate the details of your case to determine your level of liability.

Similarly, Missouri’s dangerous dog law addresses situations in which a dog attacks someone who is committing a crime (such as robbery or assault, not merely trespassing). In these cases, the owner may not be charged criminally for the attack—even if the dog causes serious injury.

Again, these cases can be tricky from a legal perspective. Be sure to get in touch with a qualified attorney right away to discuss your dog bite case and learn how to protect your rights.

What Happens if Someone Provokes Your Dog Into Attacking?

You may also be free of liability if you can prove that your dog was provoked into attacking. Provocation is generally an action that changes or instigates the dog’s behavior in some way. Common examples of ways a dog might be provoked into biting someone include:

  • Throwing rocks
  • Hitting or shoving
  • Pulling the dog’s tail or ears
  • Forcefully taking food from the dog
  • Trapping the dog in a confined space
  • Acting aggressively toward the dog

As you can probably guess, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to what constitutes provoking a dog. What you may see as bullying could be argued as an attempt at play by the other person.

If this becomes an issue in your case, you’ll want to speak with a lawyer quickly to get the evidence sorted out before it disappears. Your attorney can investigate to find eyewitness accounts, medical proof, veterinary reports, photos or video of the incident, and other evidence to determine what exactly happened to cause your dog to bite.

What Happens to Dogs That Bite Someone in Missouri?

If any dog attacks for a second time—or attacks for the first time but causes serious injury or death—it will be immediately seized by animal control or the county sheriff’s office.

The owner then has ten days to file a written appeal to the circuit court requesting that the dog not be destroyed. The court will review the case and make a decision based on the circumstances. The dog will not be destroyed while the court decision is pending.

Does Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

If a dog bites someone on your property, your homeowners insurance policy may cover the damages you are required to pay to the injured victim. A dog attack may leave the survivor with both economic and noneconomic damages, such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Permanent disability
  • Mental anguish
  • PTSD

Insurance policies differ on how animal attacks that occur on the property are handled. Be sure to check the terms of your policy and contact your insurance provider to be clear on what is and is not covered.

If you have questions or feel that the insurance company is not treating your case fairly, reach out to an attorney at Thomas Law Offices right away for help. We can make sure the insurer lives up to its obligations.

Finally, keep in mind that Missouri law also requires dog owners held liable for a canine attack to pay an additional state-imposed fine of up to $1,000.

What Kind of Lawyer Should You Call After Your Dog Bites Someone in Missouri?

Personal injury lawyers, and specifically those who focus on dog bite cases, are best equipped to help you move forward if your dog bites someone on your property. As mentioned above, it’s also necessary to work with a legal representative in your area who has knowledge of the state and local laws that apply to your case.

Are you concerned about what will happen if your dog bites someone on your property? We can examine the details of your case and advise you of your legal options at no cost to you.

Contact Thomas Law Offices to schedule a no-cost case consultation today. We represent individuals and families in Boone County, the greater Columbia, MO area, and throughout the state.

Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out of pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

Legal & Firm News

Can Medical Errors Cause PTSD?

When you suffer negligence at the hands of a medical provider, obvious physical issues arise in the aftermath. Your illness is worse instead of better, or you have a new injury that you didn’t have before. The stress and frustration of your situation might feel overwhelming and unstoppable, and you may begin to feel symptoms […]

Read More

5 Strategies To Keep Your Loved Ones Safe in the Hospital

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as many as 35.5 million hospitalizations occur in the United States annually. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comparing hospitalization rates among 1-64-year-olds between 2009 and 2018 shows that just 5.2% of Americans in that age range were […]

Read More

How To Report Suspected Nursing Home Neglect in Kentucky

When we decide to move our loved ones into a nursing home or long-term care facility, we expect the staff there to take care of our family members as if they were family, too. But unfortunately, all too often, our loved ones are taken advantage of or neglected while under the care of nursing home […]

Read More
Tad Thomas on The National Crime Victim Bar Association
National Civil Justice Institute - Trustee
Tad Thomas on Lawyer Minds
Tad Thomas on American Association for Justice
Southern Trial Lawyers Association
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Ohio Association for Justice
Kentucky Justice Association
Fellows of the Litigation Counsel of America
Martindale Hubbell Preeminent
2021 Public Justice Member
AAJ Masters of Trial Law: Champion