Dog Bites and Animals

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of a dog bite, the attorneys at Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, are here to assist you.

The personal injury lawyers at GRL Law, led by Attorney Cory Gourley, will ensure that your rights are protected and that appropriate compensation is made by the insurance company of the liable dog owner.  Whether the animal that inflicted the injuries was a cute puppy, a Labrador with no history of biting or a recognized vicious breed, the law imposes responsibility on the owners of the animal the same way.  Iowa law related to animal attacks is what is commonly referred to as strict liability.

If a dog or any animal has attacked you or someone you care for, we invite you contact us right away. We can cut through all the red tape quickly, protect your rights to receive compensation, and facilitate every avenue possible for you to obtain compensation.

Liability for Animal Damages & Injuries

Under Iowa laws, an animal’s owner is held responsible for the pet’s care and keeping. Dog owners, for instance, must ensure that the dog is not allowed to roam about unleashed. The strict liability laws provide recourse. When you receive an award, it is for damages from an injury, such as a dangerous animal attack or serious bites or mauling by a dog. The damages are paid by the insurance company covering the owner’s home or property.

Dog Bites

Liability for Dog Bites

In the state of Iowa, the owner of a dog, whether it be a Labrador, Chow, Pit bull, Doberman, Husky, German Sheppard, or any other breed, is legally responsible for damages caused by the dog when the dog is attacks or attempts to bite a person. The law imposes what is called strict liability. In other words, all the injured person must show is that they were injured by the dog and the dog was owned by the defendant. The injured person does not have to establish that the owner was negligent or did anything wrong which caused the dog to bite. The only exception is when the injured party is “doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury.” (for example breaking into the home or trespassing).

Strict Liability

Because dog bites are strict liability in the state of Iowa, one of the most common areas of contention is centered around who qualifies as the true “owner” of the dog. According to the statute, the owner of the dog is “the person to whom the dog legally belongs.” Information tending to establish ownership would be things such as city licensing documents, veterinary records, and AKC or other breeding paperwork.

Owner, Possessor, Keeper, Dog Sitter - All Liable

Liability for damages caused by a Pit bull, Doberman, Rottweiler, German Sheppard or other dogs is not limited to only the legal owner of the animal. Iowa law also states that a “keeper” or “possessor” of a domestic animal such as a dog may be held liable when the injuries resulting were the result of known vicious tendencies or propensities. Thus, while the legal owner would be strictly liable, an individual keeping the dog on their property could also be held liable for damages if it can be proven that they knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous or potentially dangerous based upon prior experiences.

Livestock Liability

In a state like Iowa, where the economy is largely built on agriculture, large livestock farms and grazing animals are everyday scenery. With the miles of fence and dilapidated buildings often housing livestock, it is not uncommon for hogs, cattle, sheep, or horses to get out of their enclosures. Regrettably, these animals sometimes wander onto roads or private property and can cause serious personal and property damage.

Owners of animals who escape their confines can be held liable to people who have been injured or have had their property damaged by loose livestock.

Under Iowa law, a livestock owner is liable to the following persons:

1. To a landowner for damages caused by the livestock owner’s livestock which have trespassed on the landowner’s land, including but not limited to property damage and costs incurred by the landowner’s custody of the livestock including maintenance costs.

2. To a landowner who takes custody of livestock on a public road for costs incurred by the landowner in taking custody of the livestock, including maintenance costs.

3. To a local authority (i.e. law enforcement or animal control) which takes custody of livestock for costs incurred by the local authority in taking custody of the livestock, including maintenance costs.

Iowa law does not require that animals be fenced in. It does require, however, that owners of livestock owe a duty of care to ensure that their livestock does not cause property damage or personal injury. When a livestock owner is negligent in supervising their animals or in maintaining their pens or enclosures, Iowa law permits a person who has suffered an injury to themselves, their land, or their property to recover damages.

There is one small exception to the rule that imposes liability upon livestock owners. In Iowa, owners of adjoining tracts of land must maintain a partition fence between the two tracts of land if either owner makes a written request upon the other owner to do so. If either own requests a fence, both parties must contribute to the building and maintenance of the fence. If an owner of land fails to help pay for the fence or help maintain it, and the other land owner’s animals get onto his land, he cannot recover from the livestock owner for damage to his property because he did not fulfill his duty to help maintain the fence.

If you, your vehicle, your land, or your property has been damaged or injured by loose livestock due to the negligence of a livestock owner, contact the experienced attorneys at GRL Law to see if you are entitled to recover.

Other Animal Claims

Besides dog bites and loose livestock, other classes of animals can cause an owner to be liable for injury or damage caused by their animals. Strict liability means that the owner is absolutely liable to the injured party, even if the owner wasn’t directly at fault, wasn’t negligent and had no intent to harm the injured party. Strict liability is imposed on animal owners for damages caused by wild animals kept in captivity or as pets. Keepers of animals that are normally considered “wild” are strictly liable for the damage these pets cause if they escape, regardless of whether or not the animal is known to be dangerous. Because these kinds of animals are known to revert to their natural tendencies, they are considered to be wild no matter how well trained or domesticated. Some examples of the kinds of animals considered to be wild are lions, tigers, bears, wolves, elephants, alligators and the like.

Even damage or injury caused by a domesticated animal can cause strict liability to be imposed upon its owner. If the owner knew or had reason to know that the animal has dangerous propensities, strict liability can be imposed upon the owner. For instance, if a person knew that a cat had a tendency to violently attack every girl with brown hair that came near it and the owner was aware of this fact, strict liability would likely be imposed upon the cat’s owner. Some cities and municipalities have local ordinances that impose strict liability on certain breeds, species, and types of animals as well. However, if a person was engaged in an unlawful act that contributed to the injury (for instance, if a burglar broke into a home and was bitten by the owner’s dog), the owner would not be liable to the injured person. For more specific information on dog bites, see here.

If you or your loved ones are injured by an animal, wild or domestic, call the attorneys at GRL Law to determine if you may be entitled to recovery for your injuries.