Dog Bites in Massachusetts

Keepers of dogs can be held strictly liable for injuries. We can help.

Dog Bite Litigation Attorney

Dog bites are extremely traumatic and often cause permanent scarring and disfigurement, as well as emotional damages.  Under Massachusetts law, an owner or "keeper" of dogs is strictly liable to third persons injured by the dog. 

Strict liability means that the owner or keeper of the dog is responsible for injuries caused by the dog without regard to negligence or the prior conduct of the dog, so long as the victim was not “committing a trespass, or teasing, tormenting or abusing” the dog at the time. 

Pursuing a dog bite claim against the owner or keeper of the dog is daunting and can be complicated.  You may be dealing with serious injuries to you or a loved one, medical expenses and lost time from work or school.  How can you protect your interests?

Below, you will find some basic information about dog bite liability, which we hope is useful.  Please note that every case is unique and you should speak to an attorney before making any decisions.

Our attorneys at Equitas Law have represented parties to dog bite actions for more than 20 years.  We can help you through the process and maximize your recovery at every stage of the action.

Massachusetts Dog Bite Law

G.L. c. 140, § 155, provides that:

If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.

This statute imposes strict liability upon the owner or keeper of a dog which causes personal injury or property damage without the necessity of proving that the owner or keeper was negligent or otherwise at fault, or that he knew that the dog had any dangerous propensities. As a result, liability exists when a dog injures someone by biting, scratching, jumping or the like, whether the dog did so with viciousness or merely in play.

The only defense that can be asserted by the owner or keeper is that the injured person was trespassing, teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog at the time he or she was bitten, but this is not available if the injured party is less than seven years old. 

A “keeper” is defined as one who has "custody, management and/or control of a dog" at the time of the incident, which can include the owner, but also a regular dog walker or sitter and a veterinary technician. 

Damages can include all consequential and compensatory damages,  such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, permanent disfigurement and lost earning capacity.

Free Consultation on any Massachusetts Dog Bite Case

If you would like to speak about your case and get an expert opinion, please call or text us at any time at 617-723-4163, email at or use our contact form, above.  We will listen to the facts of your case, address your concerns and let you know what your options are.

The initial consultation is free and there is no pressure to hire.  If you choose to hire us, we will give you a reasonable fee agreement, including possible contingency fee options.

Some related content...

Civil Litigation FAQ

We Hope This Helps!

The Statute of Limitations sets the time period – from a particular act – within which a legal action must be initiated. If you are a criminal or civil defendant, the SOL can serve to end the case (and eliminate your problem) at its infancy.

If you are looking to bring criminal charges against someone or to sue for civil damages, the SOL may prevent you from doing so if you wait too long.

Generally speaking, most state criminal charges have a SOL of 6 years (murder and certain types of sexual assault have no SOL, while some violent crimes have a SOL of 10 years).

Civil SOL vary too widely to set forth here, but the most commonly utilized are 3 years for personal injury actions, 4 years for consumer protection actions and 6 years for breach of contract.

To complicate matters further, the SOL can be “tolled”, or put on pause, for certain periods of time, such as when a criminal defendant flees the jurisdiction or a civil plaintiff has not yet discovered the harmful event.

As with most areas of the law, the Statute of Limitations is not as simple as it seems and it is important to consult with an attorney to determine how this issue may affect your case.

A tort is simply a term that describes an act or omission that causes injury or harm to another and may allow the court to impose civil liability.

Generally, torts fall into three categories: intentional torts (e.g., assault and battery); negligence (e.g., causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., making and selling defective products or dog bites).

Generally, the defendant must serve an answer to a Complaint within twenty (20) days after service of the summons and Complaint. Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1).

An answer to a Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint must be served within twenty days as well.

How you answer a complaint will have an effect on the entire case, so we strongly recommend consulting an attorney!

In responding to any pleading (most often an Answer to a Complaint), the answer must raise the following affirmative defenses or they will be waived:

  • accord and satisfaction;
  • arbitration and award;
  • assumption of risk;
  • contributory negligence;
  • discharge in bankruptcy;
  • duress;
  • estoppel;
  • failure of consideration;
  • fraud;
  • illegality;
  • injury by fellow servant;
  • laches;
  • license;
  • payment;
  • release;
  • res judicata;
  • statute of frauds;
  • statute of limitations;
  • waiver; and
  • any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.

Mass. R. Civ. P. 8(c).  It may not seem like it, but this is a crucial stage of the case and mistakes here will cost you.  Call an attorney.

Don't ignore it!

If no responsive pleading is timely filed to a Complaint, Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint, a default may be requested pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Default Judgment may be obtained by filing appropriate Affidavits with the Clerk of Court if the amount sought is for a sum certain. Otherwise, judgment may be obtained following a hearing to determine damages.  Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(b).

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