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Indiana Dog Bite Laws

Your happy pooch had never harmed a fly before but, for some reason, felt inclined to sink her teeth into your mail carrier's left ankle. The dog bite injury drew blood and caused a painful infection. You had no reason to suspect she'd do such a thing, but Indiana law holds you liable for the injuries. Had she bitten your next-door neighbor instead, you wouldn't have been liable unless it had happened before.

Sound confusing? Indiana dog bite laws can be difficult to understand. In this article, we'll look at dog bite cases, explain what happens after dog attacks, and help you know what to expect, whether you're the dog bite victim or the owner of the dog accused of attacking someone.

Read on to learn about these topics and much more concerning dog bite laws in the state of Indiana.

Indiana Dog Bite Laws: Liability and Negligence

Under Indiana law, strict liability applies to dog owners for injuries caused by their dog biting another person if they "knew or should have known" the dog was prone to attacks. This is a variation of the "one-bite rule," which has a different interpretation in each state.

The one-bite rule can mean the dog owner is not liable for their dog's first bite since they wouldn't have been aware of the dog's potential aggressive behavior before that. While this is part of Indiana law, this doesn't apply if the dog bite victim is one of the following:

  • A U.S. postal carrier or postal worker
  • Police officer
  • A state, local, or federal official carrying out their official duties

Even if it's on the owner's property, the owner of a dog that bites someone who is peaceably carrying out official duties will be subject to the strict liability statutes passed by Indiana courts. Make sure your dog is contained on your property.

There's a good chance your homeowners' insurance will cover your liability for a dog bite injury, but check your insurance policy or speak with your insurance agent to be certain.

As the owner of a dog, you may face criminal charges if your dog leaves your property and inflicts a dog bite injury. The level of the charge will increase with the severity of the injury and whether your dog has attacked others before. The chart below lists the legal ramifications you might face in such an instance.

If you're facing a dog bite lawsuit or need legal advice about potential charges against you, speak with a personal injury attorney experienced with dog bite liability.

Indiana Dog Bite Protocol

The moments after a dog bite injury are traumatic and confusing. It's helpful to know what to expect. If you are a dog bite victim, your first priority is to seek medical attention. No matter how minor the injury might seem, you should see a medical professional for treatment. If that's not possible, wash the wound with warm, soapy water and see a physician as soon as possible.

The doctor must report the bite incident to the local health department or animal control officer within 24 hours. You can also alert the Indiana Health Department via their online animal bite form.

It's also important for you to file a dog bite report with the local authorities. This helps to track potential rabies cases and note dogs who may be repeat biters.

Dogs reported for causing a dog bite injury will be quarantined for 10 days to watch for rabies symptoms.

Indiana Dog Bite Laws: The Basics

If you're facing medical bills after a dog attack, you'll want to pursue your legal options. If you do, you'll want to understand the letter of the law. Since statutes are often difficult to decipher, we've compiled the following plain English summary of Indiana's dog bite laws in the following table.

Indiana Dog Bite Laws

Indiana Code, Title 15, Section 20-1-1, et seq.

Indiana's One Bite Rule for Dog Bites

Dog owners may be held liable for damages related to dog bites if the owner knew or should have known the dog was likely to attack or bite others without being provoked.

Criminal Liability for Dog Owner's Negligence or Intentional Act

An owner may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor (up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines) if:

  • The owner recklessly or knowingly fails to take reasonable steps to restrain their dog
  • The dog enters another party's property and attacks or bites another person without provocation, causing bodily injury

This becomes a Class B misdemeanor (up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines) if the person has been convicted under this section before or the attack results in serious bodily injury.

This becomes a Level 6 felony (six months to two and a half years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000) if the owner recklessly violates this section and the attack results in a person's death.

This becomes a Level 5 felony (one to six years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines) if the owner intentionally or knowingly violates this section and it results in a person's death.

Liability for Dog Bites Suffered by Government Officials

If a dog bites a person who's acting peaceably and in a location where they are required to be to do their official duties, such as a local police officer or a U.S. postal carrier, then the owner is liable for all damages caused by the bite, even if:

  • The dog hasn't acted in a vicious manner before
  • The owner has no knowledge of the dog's prior vicious behavior

In other words, Indiana's "one-bite rule" for dog bites doesn't apply to victims who are carrying out their duties under state or federal laws or U.S. postal regulations. This law doesn't apply to nonbite injuries caused by dogs.

Defenses to Dog Bite Claims

  • The dog was provoked
  • The person bitten was trespassing at the time

Time Limit for Filing Claim

Two years (Indiana Civil Statute of Limitations) for personal injury and injury to personal property claims.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Common Indiana Dog Law Questions

In addition to the issues covered above, some frequently asked questions concerning dogs and Indiana law share common ground with your situation.

Will my dog be put down for biting someone?

There is always a chance that the local animal control authorities may rule that your dog is a danger to public safety and is euthanized, but this is always a last resort. If your dog has bitten someone, expect it to be quarantined for rabies symptom observation with one of the following:

  • A veterinarian who works for Indiana
  • A state-accredited veterinarian
  • Another person or facility approved by the local animal control officer

The cost of this quarantine is the responsibility of the dog's owner, so if your pup bites someone, you'll be on the hook for the boarding.

Is there a leash law in Indiana?

There isn't a statewide leash law for Indiana. Instead, local governments set the codes and statutes regarding leash laws and other animal-related issues. For example, in Indianapolis, a dog cannot be at large, which means running off-leash. If a dog attacks or threatens someone while at large in Indianapolis, the owner will be fined and held liable for damages.

My dog got quarantined for a bite, and they said they would spay it as well. Can they do that?

Yes, in most cases, any dog that enters a shelter or animal control facility will be spayed or neutered. Dogs up for adoption also are altered. If a veterinarian determines the procedure would put the dog at extreme risk, such as due to age, an exception can apply.

I have a dog-wolf hybrid. Are there special rules for it?

As the owner of a dog-wolf hybrid or a coyote/dog mix (known as a "coydog"), you face stricter requirements and potential penalties for keeping your particular animal. You're required to take extra care to ensure it cannot escape your personal property and that it is properly restrained if it leaves the property with you.

Research the Law

  • Indiana Code: FindLaw's hosted version of the Indiana Code and Constitution.
  • Indiana Laws: FindLaw's summaries of select Indiana laws, including criminal, injury, employment, family, and small business laws.

Indiana Dog Bites: Related Resources

Injured by a Dog Bite in Indiana? Did Your Dog Bite Someone? An Attorney Can Help

In addition to physical pain and perhaps even time in the hospital, dog bites also cause trauma to their victims. Everyone's situation is unique, but if you want to seek compensation for your dog bite injuries, speak with an Indiana dog bite injury attorney. They can help you deal with an insurance company and be your advocate in a personal injury case.

If your dog has attacked someone, a personal injury lawyer who specializes in dog bite defense cases can be your best friend's best friend. Consider hiring a skilled dog bite attorney.

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