In Connecticut, the owner or keeper of a dog is strictly liable for injuries caused by his or her dog. This means that the dog’s owner will be responsible for any harm caused by his or her dog regardless of whether they were negligent, with a few, limited exceptions.
The relevant statute is Connecticut General Statutes §22-357. This law establishes strict liability on the part of a dog “owner or keeper” for injuries caused by his or her dog except when the injured individual “was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog.”
What is a “keeper”?
For purposes of this law, a “keeper” is a person who treats the dog as living at his or her house and is responsible for the dog’s actions. In other words, the person who takes care of the dog.
What exceptions apply?
The owner or keeper of the dog will not be responsible for injuries caused by the dog, if the injured person was
- Trespassing on the property where the injury occurred; or
- Teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog.
The Courts have defined “teasing, tormenting, or abusing” to mean conduct, without justification, which would naturally antagonize or irritate the dog and cause it attack. Petting and friendly playing do not rise to the level of “teasing, tormenting, or abusing”.
When the person injured is a child below the age of 7, it is presumed that the child was not “teasing, tormenting, or abusing” the dog.
What types of injuries does this apply to?
Although commonly referred to as the “dog bite statute”, this law applies to any injury caused by a dog engaging in vicious or mischievous conduct. This includes instances where a person is knocked over by a dog or injures themselves while trying to get away from a dog. However, the owner of the dog is not responsible if the dog’s behavior is “passive, innocent or involuntary.”
For example, in Coppedge v. Travis, a dog’s owner was responsible for injuries sustained by a woman who tripped and fell while trying to avoid an unleased dog running in her direction. Here, the injured woman was allowed to recover for her injuries although the dog never made contact with her. See Coppedge v. Travis, 187 Conn. App. 528, 537, 202 A.3d 1116, 1122 (2019).
By contrast, in Atkinson v. Santore, the plaintiff was not allowed to recover when she was exposed to dogs who had been near a rabid raccoon. See Atkinson v. Santore, 135 Conn. App. 76, 84, 41 A.3d 1095, 1100 (2012).
Unlike some other states, Connecticut does not require that the owner of the dog be aware of a dog’s dangerous behavior or propensity to bite.
A landlord can be found to liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog on the rental property if the landlord permits a tenant to keep a dog known to have vicious tendencies. This is not strict liability and does not involve Connecticut General Statutes §22-357.
In order to successfully bring a claim against a landlord, it must be shown that the landlord knew that a dog being kept on the rental property had vicious tendencies. In these cases, a vicious dog is treated similarly to any other defective or dangerous condition, such as a broken step or crumbled concrete.