Tennessee Dog Bite Law

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2014 | Personal Injury

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 4.5 million people are victims of dog bites each year. Half of these victims are children. In 2012, more than 27,000 people received reconstructive surgery as a result of a dog bite. Clearly dog attacks can be a serious problem, so what are you options if you or a loved one is bitten by a dog?

Tennessee’s Dog Bite Statute

In 2007, the Tennessee legislature enacted the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, which imposes liability on dog owners whose dogs injure others in certain situations. Under the statute, dog owners are required to keep their dogs under reasonable control and prevent them from running at large. If a dog owner breaches the duty and as a result someone is injured when in a public place or when they are lawfully in another’s private property, the dog owner is liable for damages. Liability is strict in that there is no need for the victim to show that the dog had displayed dangerous propensities or that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had such propensities.


Liability under the statute is not imposed in certain cases, including:

  • When the dog is a police or military dog acting in the course of official duties and the victim ‘s conduct or suspected conduct prompted the dog’s involvement
  • When the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s private nonresidential property
  • When the dog was protecting its owner or other innocent person from attack by the injured person or by the injured person’s dog
  • When the person was injured while the dog was securely confined in an enclosure such as a kennel or crate
  • When the victim provoked the dog in any way

In addition to the above, perhaps the most significant exclusion from strict liability is when the injury occurs on the dog owner’s residential property.

Residential exception

When the injury occurred on a residential, farm or other noncommercial property and the dog owner owned the property or was there with the permission of the property owner or as a tenant or lessee, the victim is required to prove that the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensity.

In cases where the dog bite statute does not apply, you may still be able to sue a dog owner whose dog injured you under common law negligence principles if the owner was negligent.

If you or someone close to you have been the victim of a dog attack, contact an experienced Clarksville personal injury attorney at the Kennedy Law Firm, PLLC for advice.


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