Oklahoma Dog Bite Law
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
You may need an Oklahoma dog bite lawyer if:
You have been bitten by a dog, and you want to know what you can do about it;
Your neighbor has a vicious dog, and you want to know what you can do about it;
You have a dog that has bitten someone, and you want to know if you are in trouble;
You have a dog, and you want to know what you can do to protect yourself from legal trouble.
A popular myth holds that “every dog is allowed one bite.” However, in Oklahoma, this is not necessarily true. This post will discuss the state and local laws that apply to injuries caused by dogs. This post will address concerns, both to dog owners, and to people who are concerned about danger from others’ dogs.
If you have a dog that previously has
When unprovoked, bitten or severely injured any person, or
When unprovoked, created an imminent threat of injury or death to any person
Then you may not permit the dog to run at large, or to aggressively bite or attack any person. If you have a dog that has previously bitten someone when unprovoked, or has threatened someone when unprovoked, and you allow the dog to run at large or bite someone, then you may be imprisoned in the county jail for up to one year, and fined up to $5,000. If your dog kills someone, you may be imprisoned in state prison for up to five years, and fined up to $25,000. However, if your dog bites or injures someone who is committing a willful criminal act on your property, or if your dog bites or injures someone who was assaulting you, then that’s a defense to criminal prosecution.
If you release a dog on a law enforcement officer, while the officer is performing official duties, then you may be imprisoned for up to one year in state prison, and fined up to $5,000.
The above criminal penalties do not apply in “rural areas”, or in cities or towns that do not have city or village U.S. mail delivery service. However, in rural areas, or in cities or towns that do not have city or village U.S. mail delivery service, you may face other criminal penalties if your dog assaults a law enforcement officer.
Criminal penalties for those with dangerous dogs
If you have a dangerous dog, special rules apply.
Oklahoma state law defines “dangerous dog” as:
a) A dog that has inflicted severe injury on a human being, or
b) A dog that an animal control officer has found to be dangerous, and has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered the safety of humans, or
c) A dog that an animal control officer has found to be dangerous, and has killed another dog.
If you have a dangerous dog, you must do the following:
You must obtain a certificate of registration;
You must keep the dog in an enclosed and locked pen. The pen must have at least 150 feet of space for each dog kept inside, that is over six months of age. The pen must be suitable to prevent the entry of children, and be designed to prevent the animal from escaping. The pen must have secure sides and a secure top, and must provide protection from the elements, for the dog.
The pen must display a clearly visible warning sign that there is a dangerous dog on the property. The warning sign must inform children that there is a dangerous dog on the property.
Whenever the dog leaves the pen, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a chain or leash, and the dog must remain under the physical restraint of a responsible person who is at least sixteen years old. The muzzle must prevent the dog from biting any person or animal.
You must obtain a liability insurance policy on the dog, for at least $50,000.
If you violate any of the above laws, you may be imprisoned for up to one year in the county jail, and fined up to $5,000. In addition, if the dangerous dog bites or injures any person (whether or not you have violated any of the above laws) then you may also be imprisoned for up to one year in the county jail, and fined up to $5,000. You may not use liability insurance to pay the fine. Also, if a dangerous dog bites or injures any person, you may be ordered to perform up to forty hours of community service.
However, if your dog bites or injures someone who is performing a criminal act of your property, or if your dog bites or injures someone who was assaulting you, then you have a defense to criminal prosecution.
The above criminal penalties do not apply in “rural areas”, or in cities or towns that do not have city or village U.S. mail delivery service.
If a dog bites or injures a person (whether or not the dog is “dangerous”) then the bitten or injured victim may sue the owner.
To recover damages from the owner, the victim must prove:
That the defendant owned the dog;
That the dog was not provoked;
That the dog bit or injured the plaintiff; and
That the plaintiff was legally on the premises at the time of the attack.
The above legal standard does not apply in in “rural areas”, or in cities or towns that do not have city or village U.S. mail delivery service.
Civil Lawsuits in Rural Areas
If a dog injures or bites a person in a “rural area” (or in a city or town that does not have city or village U.S. mail delivery service), then the legal standard for recovery is different.
In rural areas, or cities or towns without city or village U.S. maul delivery service, the standard depends on whether the dog is “vicious” or not.
If the dog is not vicious, then, to recover damages for a dog bite or injury in a rural area, the victim must prove:
That the owner of the dog owed a duty of care to protect others from the dog’s injuries;
That the owner of the dog breached that duty;
That the owner’s breach of the duty of care caused the dog to injure or bite the victim.
However, if the dog is “vicious”, then, the only question is: Did the dog bite or injure another person? If a dog is vicious, and it bit or injured another person in a rural area, then, the victim of the bite or injury may recover from the owner. (However, the victim may be barred from recovery, if he was illegally on the premises, or was committing a crime.)
What’s the legal standard for determining whether a dog is “vicious”? In Harris v. Williams, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a dog is vicious, “if the owner had seen or heard enough to convince a man of ordinary prudence of the animal's inclination to commit injuries of the class complained of.”
Impoundment of dogs
In addition, an animal control officer may seize and impound a dog, without a warrant if:
The dog is “potentially dangerous” and is continuing to run at large at the time of the seizure. “Potentially dangerous” means that the dog, while being allowed to run at large off the property of the owner and without being provoked, has, on more than one occasion, chased persons or livestock, or aggressively created a substantial threat to the health, safety, and welfare of persons or livestock;
The officer has probable cause to believe that the dog is a “dangerous dog” and poses a continuing threat to the health, safety, and welfare of livestock or persons. For the definition of “dangerous dog”, see above;
The dog is a dangerous dog and
Does not have a certificate of registration;
Does not have liability insurance; or
Is outside its pen and is not properly restrained, with a muzzle and leash, by a responsible person at least sixteen years old.
If an officer seizes a dog under these laws, the animal control authority shall hold the dog until the animal control authority, or a judge, is satisfied that the owner has taken adequate steps to protect the health, safety, and welfare of persons or livestock with whom the dog may come into contact. The owner of the dog must pay the costs of the confinement of the dog.
In addition, if someone injured or bitten by a dog files a civil lawsuit against the owner, the judge may order that the dog be confined. The judge may specify the terms and conditions of the release of the dog. If the judge declares the dog to be a “common nuisance,” then the judge may order that the dog be killed. In a civil lawsuit, whoever loses the lawsuit must pay the costs of the confinement of the dog.
The above impoundment laws do not apply in “rural areas”, or in cities or towns that do not have city or village U.S. mail delivery service.
In addition, if you live inside the city limits of a municipality, you may also be subject to the laws of your city. In an earlier post, I have summarized the laws regarding keeping animals within the Bartlesville city limits. If you live in a city or town other than Bartlesville, you may find your city’s laws on file with the city or town clerk. Click here to see how to obtain your city or town’s laws.