small dogs playing in fenced-in dog park

Dog parks are an excellent option for dog owners who live in apartments or have limited access to green spaces. Unfortunately, these parks can be dangerous if owners fail to take proper precautions. Dogs off leashes and out of the range of their owners have the potential to cause severe or even fatal dog bite injuries.

Owner Liability for a Dog Park Bite Injury

Most dog parks allow pets to run off-leash, making it more difficult for victims to establish a dog owner's negligence. Under Tennessee law, a dog owner could still be held liable if they came to the park with a dog that was:

  • Known to bite. Owners protected by the One Bite Rule in the past may not be able to escape liability a second time. Our legal team can help determine whether the dog has a history of biting or the owner should have known the dog was dangerous.
  • Aggressive. Dogs that have been known to bark, growl, snap, or show their teeth in certain situations should not be allowed to wander freely in dog parks.
  • Not neutered. Unneutered male dogs and female dogs in heat may provoke dog fights, causing injuries to owners and family members as they attempt to break up the fight.
  • Fearful. Dogs that have not been adequately socialized or are easily scared may bite as a fear reaction.
  • Unpredictable. Dogs that have erratic or unruly behavior, such as puppies or dogs with special medical needs, should not be brought to dog parks unless they can be kept under control.
  • Untrained. If an untrained dog is visiting the park to help with socialization and command training, the dog should be kept on a leash.
  • Unvaccinated. Most parks require dogs to be licensed and current on vaccinations so the victims will not suffer diseases or infections when injuries occur.
  • Unattended. Owners should stay close by their dogs regardless of how big the park is or how fast the dog can run. It's unacceptable for an owner to let a dog run freely in a park without supervision (such as owners distracted by cellphones or sitting on benches where the dog is not in view).
  • In breach of park rules. Dog parks should have safety rules posted at the entrance, requiring owners to carry one leash per pet, all dogs to wear collars and display licenses, and owners to carry a driver's license or ID card. Owners who violate these rules may be negligent in an ensuing injury case.

Other Potential Responsible Parties for a Dog Bite in a Park

While the dog's owner is the most likely at-fault party, the municipality or organization that operates the dog park may share liability. Warning signs advising a user's waiver of rights are often posted outside these parks, claiming that visitors use the park at their own risk. However, dog park owners or operators could still be sued if the injury was due to:

  • Poor design. Fences of adequate strength and height should fully enclose parks to prevent dogs from escaping, and there should be at least one gate that latches securely or uses a two-gate system to contain dogs entering or exiting the park. The park's location may also increase injury risk (such as placing a dog park adjacent to a school or playground).
  • Overcrowding. A park should have posted limits on the number of dogs allowed at one time. The local government may be liable when animals fight over the territory if the park is overcrowded (for example, due to a lack of other facilities or dog-walkers bringing multiple pets at once).
  • Lack of enforcement. A municipality may share blame for an injury if it failed to enforce its own rules and regulations or its animal control officers failed to take action against an irresponsible dog owner.

If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a dog attack, contact the legal team at GriffithLaw today through our online form or by calling (615) 807-7900. We explain all costs to you upfront, and we don't collect any payment until you receive compensation.