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Does a Dog Get One Free Bite in Idaho? (Boswell v. Steele I)
Does a dog get one free bite in Idaho or need to bite someone at least once before the owner is liable for injuries due to dog bites?
A dog bit a visitor. The dog had bitten two people on prior occasions, although the injuries were minor. The Idaho Court of Appeals noted that an owner of a dog is liable for injuries caused by the dog when the dog owner knew that the dog was dangerous. “In cases where a domestic animal is not trespassing, the owner of the animal is liable for injuries caused if the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s vicious or dangerous tendencies.”
The court distinguished cases where the dog was trespassing and noted that in those situations, the owner of the dog, if the dog is wrongfully in the place where it caused injuries, is liable even if the owner had no notice that the dog would cause injuries. In cases of this kind the ground of the action is, that the dog was wrongfully in the place where the injury was done. And it is not necessary to allege or prove any knowledge on the part of the owner, that the dog had previously been vicious.
The court explained that “[u]nder common law, all dogs, regardless of breed or size, are presumed to be harmless domestic animals.” The burden is on the person who the dog bit to demonstrate that the dog was not harmless and that the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
The court found that a jury could conclude that a dog that had two prior bites was vicious and that the owner knew that the dog was vicious because the dog owner knew about the two prior bites. The court of appeals instructed the trial court to let a jury decide if the two prior bites by the dog demonstrated that the dog was vicious at the time of the third bite.
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