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Does a ‘beware of dog’ sign absolve an owner of liability?

On Behalf of Bennerotte & Associates, P.A.

Feb 5, 2024

Premises Liability/Dog Bites

Dogs are very popular pets, with breeds of all sizes and temperaments able to find owners who adore them. People in many different circumstances have dogs. Some people own dogs as companion animals. Others use them to help around the farm or as service animals for those with disabling medical conditions. Dogs can provide companionship, entertainment and motivation to exercise regularly. However, they can also injure people if they become aggressive. Many people injured by dogs had no reason to expect that the animal might suddenly turn vicious. They could have major medical expenses stemming from the incident.

Those attacked by a violent dog may have questions about their legal rights after the incident that left them hurt. For example, people may question whether they can take legal action against an animal’s owner. Some people worry that if the owner had a “beware of dog” sign displayed at their property, that might affect their rights. Does a warning sign about a pet absolve a Minnesota dog owner of liability for an animal’s aggression?

Signs are an acknowledgment of known risk

Contrary to what people sometimes assume, a warning sign notifying visitors of an animal’s aggressive tendencies does not protect the property owner from liability if the dog becomes vicious. If anything, the signage may achieve the exact opposite.

A warning sign is an indicator that an animal’s owner knows it is aggressive. That can eliminate some of the challenges inherent in pursuing a dog bite liability case. Proof that there was a sign on display might be all that someone needs to provide to support their claims that the Minnesota dog owner was aware their animal may pose a threat to members of the public.

Minnesota does not have a one-bite statute, so owners are subject to strict liability for the actions of their animals in most cases. In a dog bite liability case, someone attacked by an aggressive animal could seek compensation for medical expenses, property damage losses and lost wages. Homeowners insurance or renters insurance could help in some cases. Other times, there may be direct liability for the animal’s owner if there is no applicable premises liability insurance.

Learning more about the rules that apply after a Minnesota dog bite incident may help people hold the right party accountable after they get hurt by an aggressive animal.