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What Behavior Is Constituted As Provoking A Dog?

Vermont’s dog bite law allows anyone who gets bitten by a dog to get legal compensation from the owner. However, if the dog owner proves that the dog did not bite you unless you went and provoked it, you won’t be able to collect the damages. If you had some percentage of fault in the accident, that is, if you provoked the dog to bite you, you might get less or no compensation at all. 

Provocation, as defined by the Vermont dog bite laws, includes hitting, poking, taunting, or yelling at a dog. Therefore if you engage in one of these activities and the dog bites you, you could have a weak case. If you were injured by a dog bite or attack and are confused about whether you have a case, a dog bite lawyer in Vermont can help. 

Does the dog’s past behavior matter?

Provocation can sometimes become subjective, which is why the dog’s past behavior will also factor when determining whether provocation can be used as a defense. For example, if the dog already has a negative history, that is, it has bitten other people in the past, then the owner may not be able to use provocation as a defense. This is because owners of pets with an aggressive nature are required to have an elevated responsibility to secure their pets.  The provocation doctrine states that a dog bite is justified under certain circumstances, so that neither the dog nor the owner, harborer or keeper of the dog may be held responsible civilly or criminally. The facts that will be deemed to justify a dog bite are similar from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but they are not always the same. Generally, actions of the person bitten which would have triggered the doctrine of self-defense if the dog were a person are usually considered to be provocation. For example, hitting a dog and causing it to feel pain usually constitutes provocation. The dog’s reaction to the act of provocation, however, cannot be grossly out of proportion to the provocative act itself. Wade v. Rich 

The victim of the attack who is unfamiliar with the dog cannot be expected to know already that the dog is aggressive. The owner must secure their dog and warn others from approaching it. 

Is there such a thing as an unintentional provocation?

You may unintentionally provoke a dog by making threatening or seemingly threatening gestures at the dog’s owner. Since dogs are naturally protective of their owners, this might provoke them to attack you. For example, suppose you were in a heated argument with the dog owner and made a swift movement. The dog might suddenly jump and bite you. 

Even though unintentional, such things are still acts of provocation and can deem the plaintiff partly responsible for their injuries. Dog bite injuries can be serious and even life-threatening in some cases. You should not have to deal with piles of medical bills and other damages due to someone else’s negligence. 

Cases like this can be complex and require legal expertise. If you have been bitten or injured by a dog in any other way, speak to an attorney in Vermont today.


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