No, although you can sue for negligence. In Waters v. Powell (Utah Court of Appeals, 2010), we represented a dog owner who boarded “Snoop” at a kennel managed by Ms. Waters. After Ms. Waters restrained Snoop to prevent him from possibly attacking other dogs in the play area, Snoop bit her. Ms. Waters sued our client, arguing he should be held strictly liable for the dog bite.
In many instances, dog owners are automatically (“strictly”) liable if their dog bites someone, even if the owner wasn’t careless.
That rule does not apply, however, if the person bitten was also an owner or keeper of the dog. In that situation, the person must prove negligence to sue for a dog bite.
In our case, the Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Waters was a “keeper” of Snoop, and therefore our client (the dog owner) was not strictly liable. A keeper “undertakes to manage, control, or care for the dog as dog owners in general are accustomed to do,” the court said, quoting Neztsosie v. Meyer, 883 P.2d 920 (Utah 1994). As the kennel manager, Ms. Powell “exercised a substantial number of the incidents of ownership,” the court wrote. Among other things, she and her staff “fed, watered, exercised, and cleaned up after the dogs in the kennel’s care, took them to an area where they could relieve themselves, and ensured their safety and cleanliness. These activities entail essentially all of the hallmarks of dog ownership.”
Based on the court’s ruling, the claims against our client were dismissed. (There were no claims that our client was negligent.)