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Portland Dog Bites: The Basics

Dogs have always been known as "man's best friend." Portland has 5.7 dog parks per every 100,000 residents, more per capita than any other American city. From, courageous canines that have saved their owners' lives to dedicated dogs providing companionship and cuddle time, Portlanders love their canine pals. But what happens when little Bella, Rover, or Daisy decides to bite another person?

A dog attack is very serious. It's not uncommon for dog bites to result in serious injuries, particularly in cases involving attacks on children or the elderly. In the worst instances, dog attacks may even result in death.

Portland dog owners are responsible for keeping their animals under control. In most cases, if a dog attacks another person, the owner is legally responsible for that attack. Read on to learn more about the law surrounding dog bites in "Portlandia."

Oregon's One Bite Law

In Oregon, there isn't a dog bite law on the books. Basically, a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by the dog only if the owner knows or has reason to know of the animal's dangerous propensities. Otherwise, the dog gets "one free bite." This is a controversial law and many citizens are trying to change it.

Ok, plain English -- if a dog has previously behaved viciously or aggressively toward people, and that the dog owner knew or should have known about that previous vicious behavior, the dog owner can be liable for any injuries the dog may cause.

How Can I Prove a Dog Has "Dangerous Propensities?"

Many times it's difficult to know whether the dog has a history of biting. Check with Multnomah County Animal Services to see if there are any prior reports on a particular dog. However, many of these incidents go unreported. Consider talking to neighbors or the area mail carrier to see what their experiences have been with the dog. For tips on proving dog bite claims, click here.

What if I Can't Prove the Owner Knew or Should Have Known the Dog had "Dangerous Propensities?

All is not lost. If a victim can't prove those facts, he or she may still recover compensation for the dog owner's negligence.

Oregon still requires dog owners to use reasonable care to prevent the animal from causing injuries. If the owner's negligence led to the dog attack, or if the owner intentionally allows the dog to attack someone; the owner can be sued and possibly sent to jail.

If you are asserting an owner didn't use reasonable care (negligence), you don't have to prove the dog has previously bitten another person.

When Should Dog Owners Realize Their Dogs Are "Dangerous?"

If an animal control officer tells you, or your dog makes an unprovoked attack that causes any injury.

For example, if a dog has a history of lunging at people, or often growls and snaps at people who come near, the owner may have reason to expect that it may bite someone, eventually.

Is There a Time Limit to Pursue my Dog Bite Case?

Yes, as a victim you have two years from the date of the dog bite to file a lawsuit. If you don't, you won't be able to pursue your lawsuit. The time limit is longer for minors and persons considered "mentally incompetent."

Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

  • Never approach a dog you don't know or a dog that is alone without its owner, especially if the dog is behind a fence, tied with a rope or chain, or in a parked car;
  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping, or guarding something;
  • Never chase or tease dogs. Don't poke, hit, pull, or pinch a dog;
  • Always ask the owner's permission before petting a dog; and
  • Never leave a small child alone with a dog.

Potential Damages Recovery in a Dog Bite Case

The damages you may pursue in a dog bite lawsuit include the following:

  1. Medical expenses, including emergency room, hospitalization, and follow-up
  2. Plastic and reconstructive surgery
  3. Psychological therapy to treat emotional trauma
  4. Lost wages and reduced present and future earning capacity
  5. Pain and suffering
  6. Disfigurement and disability
  7. Diminished quality of life
  8. Wrongful death


If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury because of a dog bite or attack, consider speaking to a Portland personal injury attorney to learn more about what your options are in Multnomah County.

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