A Legal Guide to Missouri Dog Bite Laws

A dog snarls and barks at someone, pulling at the leash held by the owner.

Dog owners are kept on a short legal leash. From restraint laws to dangerous dog regulations, pet owners should stay up-to-date with local regulations to keep themselves, their pets and others safe. The attorneys at Casey, Devoti & Brockland have seen man’s best friend turn on strangers and family members alike. While these accidents may be devastating, it is possible to prevent them with proper precautions and knowledge of Missouri dog bite laws.

Missouri Leash Laws

Pet ownership is a vibrant part of urban and suburban living. Many folks own dogs — people walking their companions are common in just about every neighborhood throughout Missouri.

Despite this shared experience, Missouri does not have a statewide law requiring dogs to be kept on leashes. However, Missouri statute does call for dog owners to control their animals. This statute requires owners to reasonably restrain their dogs so that the animal does not injure itself, a person or another animal. In addition, many municipalities have local ordinances prohibiting dogs from freely wandering on public streets, spaces, parks and in neighbors’ yards. For instance, in the City of St. Louis, pets must be leashed and securely held whenever off the owner’s property.

Of course, many people travel with their dogs as well. State statute allows owners to bring their dogs into state parks as long as the dog is either kept on a leash less than 10 feet in length or properly affixed to a stationary object like a tree, bench or lamppost. Municipal laws vary; City of St. Louis ordinance permits owners to bring their dogs into city-operated parks so long as the dog remains on a leash, except when in a city-designated dog exercise park.

Missouri Dog Bite Laws

As attorneys, we know that the law goes beyond public spaces — Missouri dog bite laws apply to injuries that happen on private property, including in your home and yard. Dog owners are strictly liable for damages resulting from a dog bite, whether the bite occurs on public or private property. These damages encompass physical harms as well as economic losses. Furthermore, a dog owner is responsible for damages regardless of whether the dog showed any signs of viciousness before an attack. A dog owner cannot escape liability by claiming that the dog had never acted out before the incident.

Missouri law does allow juries to compare fault between the dog owner and its victim. Missouri statute directs that a bite victim may be held partially responsible if their actions contributed to the incident. In that circumstance, the damages suffered by the victim will be reduced by the percentage which their fault contributed to their injuries.

Dangerous Animal Designations 

More than 36 percent of Missouri municipalities have some form of breed specific ordinance. While this typically pertains to pit bulls, a breed is not the standard designation for “dangerous dogs” under Missouri dog bite laws. In most situations, a dog is only classified as dangerous if the animal has a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked or otherwise threaten the safety of others.

In fact, state law criminalizes the keeping of a dangerous dog. Missouri statute defines a dangerous dog as an animal that “has previously bitten a person or a domestic animal without provocation.” Penalties for keeping a dangerous dog carry and depend upon the injury inflicted by the animal. For example, a dog owner commits a felony when the injury caused by their dog results in either serious injury or death to a person. A dangerous dog may be seized and euthanized by animal control when the animal has a history of biting or causes serious injury or death in a single attack.

Contacting an Attorney for a Dog Bite

Accidents happen in the blink of an eye — it is important to know what the Missouri dog bite laws are when a dog bite occurs. If you are a dog owner, do your best to learn your dog’s boundaries to prevent a bite. Be sure to properly restrain your dog in public and keep an eye on their body language around new people.

For those bitten by a dog, now is the time to act — Missouri has a five-year statute of limitations for dog bite cases, starting the date of the injury. To begin your case, contact the attorneys at Casey, Devoti & Brockland for a free consultation.

Related Categories:

Personal Injury
Contact Us