Dog Bite Injuries in South Carolina

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In most states, there is settled dog bite law. However, when the animal is not a dog, but something else, there can sometimes be ambiguities. In fact, even when the animal in question is a dog there can be ambiguities. If you have had the misfortune of a dog attacking you, it is important to know what can and cannot be done in your state.

The South Carolina Statute

The South Carolina dog bite statute is somewhat unusual in that it lays out a defense in words of one syllable within the statute itself. It states plainly in Section 47-3-110 of the South Carolina Statutes that “if a person provokes a dog into attacking him, then the owner of the dog is not liable.” This is not the case in most states; usually, any kind of affirmative defense must be proved in court. There are other defenses, most notably trespass. If you are in a private place unlawfully, the owner of any animal will not be held liable for an attack.

That point notwithstanding, the rest of the statute is fairly straightforward. South Carolina subscribes to the theory of strict liability when it comes to animal bites, unlike in some states where you might get “one free bite” before you are held liable for your animal’s actions. States that adhere to the strict liability theory hold that animals, like dogs, can do so much damage to people that they should all be seen as possessing the potential to injure, even if their temperament does not lend itself to that belief.

The Dangerous Animal Law

An interesting wrinkle in South Carolina law is the existence of a separate ‘dangerous animal’ law. Dangerous animals are classified as members of the “canine or feline family” that the owner knows or should have known have a predilection to attack unprovoked.

One important thing to remember is that unlike with most regular dog bite statutes, the location of the attack is irrelevant. If your animal attacks and injures someone, and causes bodily injury, you may be held liable. Another pivotal point is that the statute expressly excludes agricultural animals from the definition of ‘dangerous.’ This is not always so; in other states, animals like cows or goats (which are perfectly capable of causing injury to humans) are evaluated on a case-by-case basis rather than being held as a group not to be dangerous.

Some cases have also raised the question of fighting dogs. The statute holds that fighting dogs are classified per se as dangerous, but it also states that animals will not be held to be dangerous solely due to their breed or species. This has eased the minds of some dog owners – historically, breeds such as pit bulls and rottweilers have been regulated more strictly than other breeds solely because of their popularity as fighting dogs. Keeping animals for the sole purpose of training them to attack other animals or humans is prohibited by Sec. 47-3-740.

Find a Dog Bite Attorney for Your Case

If you have been attacked by a dog or other animal, you likely need help to get your life back in order. The attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse are here to help, and will do our best to get you the compensation you are owed. Contact our North Charleston office today for a free consultation.