Legal Issues for Pet Owners

Every pet owner knows the basics of caring for your pet, but do you know about the potential legal issues and liabilities that you may face? As a pet owner, it’s important to educate yourself on how local laws regarding dog bites, vaccinations and breed restrictions can impact you.

Here are a few of the legal issues every pet owner should know about:

Liabilities for Dog Bitespet legal issues

Dog bites can lead to lawsuits, serious medical bills, and in some cases, having to get rid of a beloved family pet. It’s important to educate yourself on what your state’s laws say about your liability if your pet bites or injures someone. Some states impose a “strict liability” where the owner is responsible no matter what the circumstances are, while other states say that the owner is only liable if they had reason to know the dog had “dangerous propensities.” You can find more info on different state laws here:

State Laws Regarding Vaccinations

Most U.S. states require a dog to receive the rabies vaccination. You can find a listing of state law requirements on rabies vaccinations here:

One important thing to note about rabies laws –in some states a dog will have to be put down if he or she bites someone and doesn’t have a rabies vaccination.

Rental Properties and Pets

If you are renting a property, it’s important to know if pets are allowed before you decide to bring a pet into the property. Most standard leases should contain information on whether pets are allowed and what type of pets are allowed. Courts will generally allow a landlord to evict a tenant who violates a no-pet policy.

Breed Specific Legislation

Many cities and municipalities across the country ban certain breeds of dogs, forbidding residents to own breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers and Dobermans, among others. These laws were enacted as a way to reduce dog attacks, but many cities have been repealing the laws in recent years as they’ve generally been deemed ineffective.  If you have one of these breeds you should check your city’s laws before moving into the area, as a violation of one of these bans could result in your dog being taken away from you.

Estate Planning

For many people, pets are an important part of their family. Pet owners have the option to leave their pet to someone in their Will and/or set up a Pet Trust to provide money to care for the pet after their passing.  In the last decade, Pet Trusts have become more popular to allow pet owners to indicate what they’d like for their pets when they pass. Forty-six states now allow you to create a pet trust.  With a Pet Trust you can name a caregiver for your pet and/or leave money and guidelines for his or her care.

Group legal plan members have access to attorneys that can provide legal counsel and guidance on any of these issues that you face as a pet owner. Visit our attorney locator at to find an attorney in your area.

This article is intended to provide you with general information regarding pet liabilities. This article is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice. If you require legal advice, please consult with your own attorney.

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