Animal Bites in Washington State

Posted by Scott A. Staples | Dec 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

Is a dog owner in Washington legally responsible for injuries caused when their pooch bites someone?  Because of Washington's dog bite statute, the answer is usually an easy yes

However, it's often not that simple. Over the years I've run across some less clear-cut situations involving animal attacks. What if the animal in question is not a dog? What if it is a dog, but the purported owner just got it the day before from a rescue organization and is simply trying out the fit? Washington law is not 100% clear on what the outcome would be in every such situation, but has some helpful case law to guide the practitioner. 

The important thing to note is that at common law an owner, keeper, or harborer of an animal who knows or should know of its dangerous propensities and that it is likely to cause injury is liable, regardless of whether that person was negligent. This means you don't need to be the legal owner of the animal to be responsible, if you know it is dangerous, if you are harboring it in some way. Harboring has been defined in the law as protecting. The lesson is be careful of feeding strays of any type, I suppose. 

About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012). Scott has volunteered time for the past several years at the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Housing Justice Project. He has previously served on the new member and membership committees for the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), and has acted as chair and co-chair of the WSAJ Clark County Roundtable. He is a member of the Washington and Oregon State Bar Associations, WSAJ and OTLA (state trial lawyer organizations), and is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Washington and Oregon. Scott was born and raised in Vancouver, attending Vancouver public schools and graduating from Hudson's Bay High School. He enjoys playing recreational basketball and softball, skiing, and spending time with his wife and three children.


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