Wisconsin’s Dog Bite Laws

There are approximately 75 million dogs in the U.S. Dogs bite about 4.5 million people each year and approximately 800,000 of them receive medical treatment for their injuries. Approximately 368,000 people end up in the ER per year due to dog bites (that’s 1,088 a day!). Dog bite hospitalizations have gone up approximately 86% since 1993. Getting bitten by a dog is the fifth most common reason a child has to visit the ER each year. 50% of all dog attacks are against children 12 years old or younger. If you’re a postal worker, consider yourself warned as the old cliché is correct: 2,851 postal workers are bitten by dogs each year per the U.S. Postal Service. The average cost of treatment for dog bites is $18,120.00 per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Still, only 1/3 of 1% (3 or 4 people out of a 1,000) receive compensation for their dog bite injuries.

Wisconsin Law
The law in Wisconsin, as drafted in statute section 174.02, states that the dog owner is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property. Also, if the dog had previously caused injury and the owner knew or was notified that the dog had previously caused injury or damage to property, then they injured person can receive “double damages.” The Wisconsin law imposes strict liability on dog owners. That means a dog owner is liable if their dog bites, regardless of the situation or if the owner was negligent in the handling or keeping of the dog.

The definition of an owner does not extend to landlords unless they are the owner of the dog, even if they are aware that a dog is residing on their property.

Some tips to teach children to avoid injury from a dog

  • Avoid approaching dogs you don’t know
  • Do not disturb a dog that is eating or sleeping
  • Avoid making eye contact with dogs
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to sniff and see you first
  • Do not play with a dog without adult supervision
  • Do not run away from a dog
  • Do not scream or make loud noises around dogs
  • If a dog knocks you over, curl in a ball and lay still
  • If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless
  • If bitten by a dog, report it immediately to an adult

Attorney Michael C. Demo