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Missouri Dog Bite Laws

It’s sometimes easy to forget that our furry buddies can cause serious injuries. Being a victim of a dog bite can be horrifying. But being the owner of a dog accused of biting someone is no easy thing either.

It’s important to understand how Missouri dog bite laws work. In this article, we’ll look into what you should do if you’re bitten by a dog, who may be liable for damages, the risks involved with owning a dangerous dog, and other topics as well.

Missouri Dog Bite Laws Overview

Over 4.5 million people suffer a dog bite injury in the United States every year. So, it’s not surprising that Missouri has laws in place to protect people from aggressive dogs. These laws have evolved over the years. For example:

  • All dogs over the age of six months must be licensed and registered.
  • Missouri does not have a specific statewide leash law, but the owner of a dog is expected to keep them properly restrained.

Municipalities can also impose their own restrictions. In St. Louis, for example, dogs must be leashed when off their owner’s property unless they’re in a designated dog exercise park. Kansas City Ordinance 14-33 404, also known as the leash law, prohibits dogs from roaming free in public areas. 

Liability, Negligence, and the One-Bite Rule

Missouri used to follow the one-bite rule. That meant that an owner wasn’t considered to be at fault if their dog had never exhibited any signs of being a danger previously. A dog was allowed one free bite before its owner could be liable for subsequent bites.

In 2009, Missouri adopted the more stringent strict liability standard. Missouri dog owners have been on more precarious legal ground ever since. When a dog bites someone in Missouri, it no longer matters if it was the animal’s first bite on record. The dog's owner is strictly liable for any injuries or damages the dog causes.

Missouri also follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. So, the amount of damages that may be awarded to the victim of the dog attack can be reduced if it is determined that they were partially responsible for the incident.

Dangerous Dogs

In Missouri, a dog is considered to be dangerous if it’s previously attacked a person or another animal without provocation. If you own a dangerous dog and it attacks without being provoked again, not only will you have civil liability, but you may face criminal charges as well—some of them serious.

Keeping a dangerous dog is a class B misdemeanor. The following transgressions increase the penalty:

  • Causes a serious injury: Class A misdemeanor
  • Causes multiple serious injuries: Class E felony
  • Causes the death of any person: Class D felony

If you’re convicted of any of these crimes, your dog can be seized by an animal control officer and placed in impound for 10 days. Unless you can successfully appeal, your dog will be humanely euthanized.

What To Do if You’ve Been Attacked by a Dog

If you suffer a personal injury from a dog attack, the first and most important thing you should do is seek medical attention. Even if the wound is minor, the chance of infection is very real. If possible, you should try to gather information from any witnesses. Also, ask the dog's owner if it is up to date on its vaccinations.

It’s also important to file a dog bite report with the local authorities. The local animal control officer will be alerted by the doctor treating your dog bite injury. But it’s still crucial to have your report on file as you seek coverage for your medical expenses. Insurance companies may try to avoid paying your medical bills unless you’ve taken this step.

Depending on how serious your dog bite injury is, you might consider filing a dog bite lawsuit, for which having the report filed is absolutely necessary. If you need any legal advice, speaking with an injury lawyer specializing in dog bite cases might be a good idea.

Recapping Missouri Dog Bite Laws

We’ve already touched on the statutes above, but the chart below may be helpful in providing a clearer understanding of Missouri’s dog bite laws.

Dog-Related Laws

Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 273.036 (civil liability) and 578.024 (penalties for keeping a dangerous dog)

Strict Liability

The owner of a dog that bites is liable for damages:

  • If the dog was not provoked

  • If the injured person was on public property or lawfully on private property

  • Regardless of the dog’s previous temperament

Comparative Negligence

If the injured person had any fault in the incident, the damages owed by the dog owner may be reduced by the percentage that is deemed to be the fault of the injured person.


A fine up to $1,000, which is apart from any civil remedies that may be sought by the injured party

Related Laws

Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 273.020:

  • The owner of a dog who kills or maims sheep or other domestic animals may be liable for the damage

  • It is lawful for anyone to kill the dog

  • The owner “shall forthwith” kill the dog or pay a fine of $1 per day

Criminal Penalties

Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 578.024:

A person commits the offense of keeping a dangerous dog if the animal has previously bitten a person or domestic animal without provocation and then does it again. This is a class B misdemeanor unless the attack:

  • Results in serious injury, making it a class A misdemeanor

  • Results in a serious injury, as did any previous attack, making it a class E felony

  • Results in the death of a person, making it a class D felony

Defenses to Dog Bite Claims

Here are some common defenses to dog bite claims:

  • The dog was provoked

  • The dog was responding to a wrongful act by the injured person

  • The injured party was trespassing

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 Questions About Dog Bites in Missouri

The details of your dog bite situation may differ from those of others. But there are some common threads between dog bite cases. Below are some frequently asked questions that may contain additional information you’ll find useful.

How long do I have to file a claim for a dog bite?

The amount of time you have to file a claim is called the statute of limitations. Once it passes, your window to act has closed. In Missouri, you have five years from the day of the attack to file a personal injury claim.

If you have any questions about the process, consider talking with a dog bite lawyer.

If my dog needs to be quarantined after a bite, can I do it at my house?

The state would prefer your dog be in a veterinary or animal control facility. But if your situation is considered low risk, then you may have the right to quarantine at home. It’s considered “low risk” when it's a provoked animal, its vaccinations are up to date, and there is ease of securing the dog in the home. Either animal control or law enforcement will monitor you. You also must stay on the lookout for any symptoms of rabies.

The Department of Health and Senior Services says they are going to do an investigation. What information do they need?

If the Missouri DHSS plans on investigating your dog bite incident, they will require the following:

  • Verification of the injury
  • Extent of the exposure
  • Physician’s assessment
  • Circumstances of the incident
  • Information about the animal
  • Collaboration with other involved officials

What they do will depend on the information gained.

Missouri Dog Bite Laws: Related Resources

Were You Bitten? Has Your Dog Bitten Someone? Speak With a Dog Bite Attorney

It’s never a good time to endure pain and suffering. If you've been seriously injured by a dog, get medical help at once. After that, consider reaching out to an experienced dog bite attorney to understand your legal rights going forward.

You may also need to seek legal help if you’re the owner of a dog who has bitten someone. A Missouri attorney specializing in animal bite defense cases can help you with your case. Your dog is more than a pet — it’s a family member. Having a legal expert on your side might make all the difference.

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