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If a Dog Bites an Animal Worker, Is the Owner Liable?

Even the calmest dogs can get agitated at the vet’s or groomer’s facility. Such environments can (understandably) cause considerable stress and anxiety in pets, who may be inclined to snap at those handling them. Generally speaking, when a dog bites someone, the state of Wisconsin will hold the owner strictly liable. That means, with the help of a personal injury attorney, the victim merely has to prove the incident occurred, not that the owner’s negligence played a role. When animal workers are bitten, though, a different set of rules applies. 

Assumption of Risk 

In general, those who work with animals assume a certain amount of risk. Every dog has a breaking point and will attack when it feels threatened, regardless of its normal demeanor. That means dog bites are an occupational hazard for veterinarians, vet techs, groomers, doggy daycare workers, kennel operators, and other animal handlers.

Those who enter a field in which they’ll be working closely with dogs understand that bites can—and inevitably do—happen. As such, they do not typically have grounds for a personal injury suit against the animal’s owner in the event of an attack as long as they were on the job when the incident occurred. 

Exceptions to the Rule 

As with virtually all laws and precedents, there are exceptions to the “assumption of risk” defense, and scenarios exist in which owners can be deemed liable when their dog bites an animal worker. For example, if the dog has a history of aggression, but the owner fails to inform the vet of this fact or to take reasonable measures to protect providers (by using a muzzle,  for example), those who end up getting bit might be able to sue for damages.

In Wisconsin, the owner would have to cover twice the total damages in such a scenario because the state has a Second Bite (With Notice of Dangerous Propensity) statute. That means if the owner knew the dog had previously attacked someone, he or she could be on the hook for two times the resulting losses. Because every case is different, it’s wise for dog bite victims to consult with a personal injury attorney, regardless of whether they work with animals and happened to be on the job when they were attacked. 

If you were bitten by a dog while working with animals, a personal injury attorney from Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates, LLC can determine if you have grounds for a claim. For nearly two decades, this firm has been helping injured parties throughout La Crosse, WI, recover what is rightfully theirs. Backed by an impressive track record of success—they’ve secured more than $90 million for their clients—their lawyers know what it takes to win sizable settlements and verdicts. To request a free consultation with a personal injury attorney on their team, reach out online or call (877) 784-1230.