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CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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I might have a problem and I hope someone can help me. I

Customer Question

Hi, I might have a problem and I hope someone can help me. I have a four year old dog that I got at a shelter, and he does not like when strangers walk towards him on the sidewalk. He barks and lunges at them. I usually try avoiding people when I walk him. This has worked pretty well for the past eight months that I have owned him. Yesterday when I was walking him a woman was walking towards us and he seemed okay at first, but then he started barking at her and lunging towards her. For some unexplainable reason, the woman kept walking straight down the sidewalk and made no effort to avoid my dog. He is a small dog but strong, and when I pulled him away from her, my hand slipped on the leash and he lunged at her and nipped her on her thigh. She wrote down my name and phone number and said she was going to seek medical attention. I don't know if she was bleeding, but it looked like the jeans she was wearing weren't torn at all. I gave her my work phone number but I had the day off from my job so I haven't talked to her since the incident. I am willing to pay her medical bills if she has any. My question is can she sue me for a large sum of money? And would a judge take my dog away from me? My dog has never bitten anyone before. Thank you for your help.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

Thank you for using our forum. My name is ***** ***** I hope to assist you today.

Regarding any civil liability you may have towards this other person, you can be held liable for the actual cost of any injuries or medical care she may receive. It would be possible that the court could find that you are liable for additional damages (called punitive or exemplary damages) if the plaintiff were to show that you were reckless in walking a dog that you knew had a tendency to be aggressive towards others, but courts are usually reluctant to award such damages.

For a good summary on New Jersey dog bite claims (the civil side) see: (it is written primarily for individuals hoping to bring a claim, but it gives you a good idea of what the scope of potential damages would be).

If the woman does go and get treatment, the physician is supposed to report the bite to local animal control. Animal control should order quarantine for your dog (this may be either placing the dog in the kennel, or having you keep the dog in your unit and ensuring he does not go outside). See:

Regarding whether or not your dog will be deemed an aggressive dog or not is another issue altogether (and NJ is particularly difficult to deal with as its regulatory process is not very well identified). You can help ensure that your dog is less likely to be deemed dangerous if you can show you are taking steps to reduce his aggressive tendencies (such as hiring a professional trainer (someone with some credentials and verifiable experience) to help train your dog to behave more appropriately in public).