Maine's Law on Loose Animals | Lipman & Katz

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Maine's Law on Loose Animals

by Caleb Gannon 

Lipman & Katz Attorney Caleb GannonWhat are your rights if someone's animal injures you? Are you at risk if your animal injures someone else? Unfortunately, people and property are injured or damaged by animals all too frequently. These situations might be reduced if animal owners and potentially injured persons were aware of what the law is in Maine. 

Under Maine law the owner or keeper of an animal can be held liable in a civil action for injuries or damage the animal causes to another person's body or property. The owner or keeper can be held liable if the damage was not occasioned through the fault of the person who was injured. 

A keeper means a person who is in possession or control of a dog or other animal. A person can become a keeper of a stray domesticated animal simply by feeding it for 10 or more consecutive days. An owner is a person who owns, keeps or harbors a dog or other animal.

Take, for example, someone who owns and keeps a cow in a fenced pasture by a roadway and knows that it has recently escaped through the fence into the roadway. That owner must do more than simply put their animal back into the pasture—they must also secure and repair the fence that they now know to be faulty. If the fence isn't repaired and the animal escapes again and causes a motor vehicle accident, the owner can be held liable for the damage caused to both the vehicle and the persons injured in the accident.

Angry dog running looseThe same can be said for the owner of a dog that regularly escapes from its owner's yard and runs into the roadway. If, however, someone's dog bites another person, their liability is treated differently. In that situation, the owner or keeper can be held liable in a civil action to the person injured for the amount of any damages. Damages can include medical bills, and pain and suffering associated with the injuries caused by the dog bite. 

It's important to remember that the owner or keeper of the dog can be held liable even if the person who was injured was at fault unless the court determines that the injured person's fault was greater than the fault of the dog's keeper or owner in causing the injuries. This is often referred to as "strict liability."

For someone to be held strictly liable, the law states that the injuries caused by the dog cannot have occurred on the owner or keeper's property.

If you've been bitten by a dog or your property has been damaged by an animal, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after seeking medical treatment in order to preserve whatever evidence may exist. In Maine, you have up to six years from the date of the injury to bring your claim to court.

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