Know Your Rights When it Comes to Dog and Animal Bites in Missouri!

It’s a mild evening and most of the last snowfall has melted, so you’ve decided to get your bike out of the garage and go for a ride through the neighborhood. You’ve only been riding for 20 minutes when a large dog comes charging from behind a house, bites your leg, and holds on. By the time the owner and passers-by get the dog off, you’ve experienced an injury that will require surgery and ongoing medical treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year an average of 4.7 million people in the U.S. are injured by dog bites. Many of these wounds are serious enough to require extended medical treatment. If you or someone you love has been attacked by a dangerous dog or other animal, Missouri law has causes of action available to you for damage recovery.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites

Missouri was once a “one bite state” when it came to aggressive dogs. To seek compensation, you had to prove that the dog was vicious and the owner knew of its propensities. Bite victims no longer have that complicated burden of proof thrust upon them. Now the state’s dog bite statute calls for strict owner liability.

According to Missouri Revised Statutes section 273.036.1, the dog’s owner may be held liable for your bite injuries if you were on public property (or legally on private property) and did not provoke the animal to attack. This rule applies even if the owner took reasonable steps to restrain the animal and otherwise prevent the bite.

The statute also states that in addition to paying a $1,000 fine, the owner of a dog that bites someone else is liable for any damages proven in a personal injury lawsuit, such as medical costs, lost wages, and property damage. They may even face criminal charges: if someone negligently keeps a dog with a known bite history, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and compelled to pay a fine or spend up to six months in jail. The offense may be escalated to a felony charge depending on the severity of your injuries.

What About Non-Bite Injuries?

The Missouri statute does not cover other injuries a dog might inflict, such as jumping on a person and knocking them over. To determine if you are entitled to damages in this type of case, you first must classify your status as either a business invitee, licensee, or trespasser.  


A business patron is typically classified as an invitee. For example, if you go to a business and you are hurt on their premises, you are classified as a business invitee. To recover in Missouri, you must prove that:

  • A dangerous condition existed on the premises (in this case, the dog)
  • The possessor or owner of the dog knew, or, through the use of ordinary care, should have known of the condition
  • The possessor or owner failed to use ordinary care to remove, remedy, or warn of the danger
  • As a result of all of these elements, you were injured


A social guest is typically classified as a licensee. For example, if you are invited to a friend’s house for a social gathering you are referred to as a licensee. To recover in Missouri for any injuries you sustain as a licensee you must prove that:

  • A dangerous condition existed on the premises (the dog)
  • The possessor or owner of the premises had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition
  • You lacked knowledge of the condition and could not have discovered it in the exercise of ordinary care
  • The possessor or owner knew or in the exercise of ordinary care, should have known that you were unaware of the condition and could not discover it
  • The possessor or owner failed to use ordinary care to remove, remedy, or warn of the condition


If you are injured on property and you have not been invited on the property, you can be classified as a trespasser. The general rule in Missouri is that the owner of the property on which you are injured is not liable for harm caused by the owner’s failure to put his property in a reasonably safe condition. However, if you can prove that:

  • A dangerous condition existed on the premises
  • The owner of the premises had actual knowledge of the condition
  • The owner had actual knowledge of the presence of the trespasser, or of the applicability of some other exception to the general rule, you may be entitled to damages under Missouri law

If you were injured by a domestic animal attack in Missouri, let Ryan R. Cox & Associates help you get the compensation you need to recover and resume your life. We will investigate the circumstances leading up to the attack and work to hold the owner liable. Contact us or call 636-946-6886 today for a free and confidential consultation.

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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