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Know Your Rights: Delaware’s Dog Bite Laws Demystified

Delaware Dog Bite Laws: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Dogs are popular pets across the United States, with millions of American homes playing host to these loving and loyal animals. However, these beloved animals do have the potential to cause injury, and in some cases can even be dangerous.

When it comes to legal issues arising from dog bites, different states have different rules and regulations. Delaware is a “strict liability state”, which makes the owners of a dog legally responsible for any injuries inflicted by the animal.

This article will explore the nuances of Delawares laws related to dog bites and attacks, and will provide guidance for owners, potential victims, and the public in general.

Strict Liability in Delaware Dog Bite Cases

“Strict liability”, as mentioned before, denotes that the owner of a dog is responsible for any injuries inflicted by the animal, regardless of whether or not the owner was negligent in any way. This means that the dog owner is held strictly liable for any injuries caused by their pet should it bite someone, and cannot argue that they had no idea their pet was capable of attacking.

This rule applies to both personal injury and property damage. If a dog jumps on someone, causing a serious injury, or the dog damages someone’s property by chasing someone while they are riding their bike, the owner of the dog is held strictly liable.

No Free Bites

The one free bite rule no longer exists in Delaware – which is great news for potential victims of dog bites. This means that a dog owner can no longer argue that they trusted their dog around strangers because the dog had never bitten anyone before.

Owners are responsible for preventing their animal from behaving in a potentially harmful manner.

Negligence and

Negligence per se

In addition to strict liability, Delaware also allows for claims of negligence and negligence per se. “Negligence” refers to a lack of reasonable care that results in harm to another person.

In essence, a dog owner can be held responsible for a bite if they were not taking reasonable care to prevent the bite from happeningincluding not properly securing the animal on a tether or leash. “

Negligence per se” refers to an automatic liability that results from a violation of a law, statute, or regulation that is designed to protect people.

For example, the Delaware code states that a person who owns a dog must keep it under control while in public places and is responsible for any harm the animal causes while in public. So, if a dog owner violates this rule and subsequently injures someone, they could be found legally responsible under the concepts of negligence per se.

Dangerous Dog Definition and Exceptions

Delaware has a definition of a “dangerous dog.” A dangerous dog is defined as a dog which has a history of: unprovoked biting; viciousness which is put on display outside of a dog guarding a person’s property or while the dog is hunting; or mental illness or condition that could cause the animal to attack suddenly and without warning. There are certain exceptions to this classification of a “dangerous dog”.

For instance, if the dog was defending its owner, or if the dog was provoked, the animal could fall outside of the definition of a dangerous dog.

Penalties for Dogs with History of Biting

If a dog has a history of biting someone in Delaware, the state’s rules say that the owner must keep the dog under control. Owners of dogs that have been known to bite must leash and muzzle their animal in certain situations, or face a class A misdemeanor penalty.

Additionally, if an owner of a dangerous dog is found to have not taken necessary steps to control the animal and it subsequently bites someone, they may be subject to a class G felony, punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries

Victims of dog bites or attacks may be eligible for compensation for any injuries they suffered. This can include medical bills, lost wages, and other costs associated with the incident.

There may be insurance policies that can compensate them for their injuries, and they may seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.


The concept of scienter refers to knowledge of an animal’s tendency to be dangerous. An owner of a dog who knew that their animal had a vicious nature and could potentially cause harm may be liable for any injuries caused by the dog, regardless of whether the owner was negligent or not.

The Bottom Line

Delaware is a state that takes dog bites and attacks seriously, with a strict liability stance on dog owners being held responsible in the event of a bite. This means that dog owners must take reasonable steps to ensure their animal doesn’t pose a risk of harm.

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog in Delaware, you may be entitled to compensation. Seek the help of a competent attorney to understand the full spectrum of your rights in such cases.

Delaware Dog Negligence Laws: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Delaware has specific negligence laws that apply to dog bites In this article, we will discuss those relevant laws that deal with dog bites and negligence you should know about. Specifically, duty and its breach, negligence per se, dangerous dog enclosures, and comparative negligence.

Duty, Breach of Duty, and Comparative Negligence

In a “negligence” lawsuit in Delaware, the victim (or “plaintiff”) attempts to prove that the defendant, in this case, the dog owner, breached a duty of care that they had toward the victim. With respect to dogs, the duty of care may vary depending on the circumstances.

For instance, a dog owner might have a higher duty of care when their dog is around children, potentially at higher risk of injury; the level of care a dog owner should take to prevent such an accident would be greater in this situation. If the dog owner failed to meet the appropriate duty of care, and if this breach of duty resulted in harm to the victim, the owner may be sued.

This is known as “comparative negligence,” which compares the blame between the two parties. Comparative negligence allows a plaintiff to recover compensation even if they were partially responsible for the incident, and the defendant (the dog owner in this case) is also liable.

This means that if the plaintiff was partially responsible for their own injuryfor instance, because the victim was teasing the dog before it bit themthen their compensation will be adjusted accordingly.

Negligence per se

Negligence per se occurs when a defendant has violated a statute that was designed to protect people and that violation leads to the plaintiff’s injury. For instance, if a dog owner violates the state law requiring the animal to be kept on a leash and the dog subsequently bites someone, they would be considered to be negligent per se.

This violation of the law is considered proof of negligence, which may help plaintiffs claims.

Dangerous Dog Enclosures

For owners of dogs with a history of biting or aggression, Delaware has specific requirements for secure enclosures. According to the law, the owner of a dangerous dog must take all reasonable steps to prevent the dog from escaping a yard or other enclosure.

The surround of the dangerous dog must also post a warning sign that informs visitors that a dangerous animal is on the premises. In addition to a secure yard, a dangerous dog owner in Delaware must maintain liability insurance because there is generally a higher degree of risk associated with a dog that has shown a propensity for aggressive behavior.

The insurance policy will offer some financial protection in case of an accident or injury. What If My Dog Bites a Child in Delaware?

If a dog bites a child in Delaware, the consequences for the dog owner can be severe. Children are a vulnerable group that requires heightened care to prevent accidents and injury, and if a dog owner has failed to take the appropriate precautions, there may be significant legal liability.

Compensation for Serious Injuries

If a child suffers a serious injury, the compensation provided may include hospital bills, lost wages from missed days of work, as well as compensation for any long-term disfigurement or disability resulting from the bite. Its essential to retain an experienced dog bite defense attorney when dealing with such incidents: they can help you deal with medical bills, confer with insurance companies, and ultimately, defend you in court.

Importance of Contacting a Dog Bite Defense Attorney

Dog bites or attacks can be highly charged scenarios; tensions run high, and the victim may be distressed, angry or litigious. It’s essential to speak with an attorney experienced in this area of the law.

A qualified dog bite defense attorney can help you develop an effective legal strategy, protect your rights, and represent you in court if necessary.


Dog bites can be a complicated matter, and legal matters relating to them can be challenging to navigate. Therefore, it’s crucial to know your rights and responsibilities as a dog owner specific to the State of Delaware.

Check the laws in your locality and follow them correctly to protect yourself, your dog, and your finances from legal liabilities.

International Tort and Delaware Dog Bite Laws:

Liability for Using Dogs as Weapons

In some parts of the world, dogs are used to guard assets, protect people, or control crowds. While there are practical applications for dogs in these functions, the use of dogs as weapons can result in serious injury and, in some cases, legal liability.

International Tort

International tort refers to laws that pertain to incidents that occur outside of the United States. This area of the law has come into particular focus in the context of armed conflict, where dogs have been used in combat.

For instance, in 2007, an American contractor working in Iraq was mauled to death by a pack of dogs that were accompanying a group of Iraqi security personnel. While the use of dogs in combat or law enforcement is legal under certain circumstances, there is always a risk of injury to civilians or unintended targets.

As such, the use of dogs as weapons may result in lawsuits when the “tort” (or harm) occurs in another country.

Liability for Using Dogs as Weapons

When dogs are used as weapons, the parties involved can be held liable for any harm that is inflicted. For instance, if a dog is instructed to bite or attack a person, the owner of the dog is responsible for any injury that is caused.

In Delaware, the strict liability rule is applicable to dog bites and attacks even if the dog was following orders from its owner. It is illegal to use dogs as weapons that can harm people and other animals, and those who breach this law can be prosecuted.

Liability Insurance: A Smart Investment

In the event of a dog bite or attack, the legal expenses associated with defending oneself can quickly stack up. For this reason, it is recommended that dog owners obtain liability insurance.

If the dog owner is found legally responsible for an injury, the policy will cover legal expenses and compensation to the victim. Neglecting to obtain liability insurance can be a drastic and unnecessary risk that can leave dog owners with potentially catastrophic debt.

Liability coverage may be included in a homeowner’s insurance policy or can be purchased as a separate policy. In either case, purchasing insurance is a smart investment that can save significant expenses and heartache down the road.


In conclusion, the use of dogs as weapons can result in serious injury, both domestically and internationally. In the United States, including Delaware, strict liability rules apply in cases of dog bites and attacks, regardless of whether the dog was being used as a weapon.

It is recommended that dog owners obtain liability insurance to protect themselves financially. By understanding the laws, being responsible pet owners, and investing in insurance coverage to protect their assets, dog owners can avoid legal complications and potential financial ruin caused by their pet’s actions.

In conclusion, understanding and adhering to Delaware’s dog bite laws is vital for all dog owners. The state adopts a strict liability approach, holding dog owners responsible for any injuries caused by their pets, irrespective of previous behavior.

Negligence per se and comparative negligence also come into play, emphasizing the need for responsible dog ownership. Furthermore, using dogs as weapons can result in legal liability, both domestically and internationally.

Obtaining liability insurance is a smart investment, safeguarding owners from potential financial ruin. By being aware of the laws, taking necessary precautions, and being insured, dog owners can ensure the safety of others while protecting their own interests.

Remember, responsible pet ownership is not only a legal duty but also a moral obligation.

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