What are Missouri’s Leash Laws?

Unlike some states in the U.S., Missouri doesn’t have a statewide leash law. However, there is an “adequate control” law that requires dogs and other animals to be restrained and supervised on public property to prevent harm to the animal, other animals, and people.

If your dog bite injuries from an unleashed dog on public property and need help with your case, you need to consult a St. Louis dog bite lawyer who knows Missouri’s leash laws and can ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve.

Missouri’s Adequate Control Law

While Missouri doesn’t have a statewide leash law like some states in the U.S., there is an adequate control law under Missouri’s injury statute (§578.005). Missouri’s adequate control law defines adequate control as “to reasonably restrain or govern an animal so that the animal does not injure itself, any person, any other animal, or property.”

While an animal is not required to have restraints on private property, under this law, if a dog isn’t restrained in public and bites a person or another animal, the victim or injured animal’s owner has the right to sue the dog’s owner for damages with adequate proof. Recoverable damages from the accident can include medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

Missouri Leash Laws for Parks

Missouri does not have a leash law, but there is a regulation in place for Missouri state parks that requires pets to be restrained by a leash no longer than 10 feet and supervised at all times.

Furthermore, Missouri State Park Regulations state that, “pets, other than service dogs used by persons with disabilities, are not allowed inside any state park or historic building, in public swimming areas and beaches, in waters reserved for fishing or in certain limited areas.” Violation of state park regulations can result in a citation.

For example, if a non-service animal is on the beach in a state park, this can result in a fine of $28.50, or if someone else’s dog bites a person in a state park, a citation of $153.50. Not to mention, the victim of the dog bite accident has the right to file a claim against the dog’s owner to recover full compensation for their harm and losses caused in the accident.

According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 people bitten by a dog requires medical attention. While not all dog bite cases are eligible to recover compensation, if a dog bites a person unprovoked, on public property, whether the owner was supervising the animal or not, the victim in the accident has the right to file a claim against the dog’s owner to recover compensation for their injuries and financial damages. For example, if a dog is unleashed on a public road, and the unrestrained dog bites a person walking on the road, the victim can sue the dog’s owner.

The primary victims of dog bite accidents are typically children under the age of 9. In December of last year, a 2-year-old girl in Normandy, MO, was bitten by an unrestrained dog while visiting her grandma’s house and left with severe injuries to her cheeks and lips. When a dog bite accident happens, it’s crucial to immediately do the following:

  • Gather evidence of your injuries
  • Collect evidence from the scene of the accident
  • Record information about the dog, such as its size, color, and breed
  • Call the police
  • Report the attack to St. Louis Animal Control
  • Hire an experienced St. Louis Dog Bite Lawyer to represent your dog bite case/li>

There Are Still Strict Dog Bite Laws Throughout Missouri

The lack of a statewide leash law in Missouri does not mean that dog owners can do whatever they want. There are local regulations that govern the responsibility of dog owners in municipalities across the state. These can come into play when a dog owner fails to follow them, and you suffer injuries.

Missouri’s Cities Each Have Their Own Dog Leash Laws

While Missouri does not have statewide laws, St. Louis has extensive regulations aimed at keeping people safe from dangerous dogs. The city claims to enforce its leash laws to balance the interests of dog owners who want to enjoy their pets with others who want to be safe.

St Louis animal control ordinances are:

  • Whenever pets are off their owner’s property, they must be securely leashed, and that leash must be held by a responsible person.
  • The only place out in public where this rule does not apply is at a park with specific designations for dogs to exercise.
  • Dogs cannot be at large off of an owner’s property. This includes public streets, parks, and property of others.
  • The leash holding the animal can be no longer than six feet.

St Louis Laws About Dangerous Dogs

In addition, St Louis also has other strict laws that require owners to control their pets. For example, dogs must remain in an enclosed private property. Dog owners must also warn the public if they have a dangerous dog by placing a sign on their property. Further, any dog owner with a dangerous dog must have a minimum homeowner’s insurance policy for at least $50,000. Owners cannot take a dangerous dog off their property without a substantial leash and a muzzle.

St Louis ordinances define “dangerous dog” as follows:

  • The dog has inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property.
  • The dog killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner/guardian’s property.
  • The dog previously showed it was potentially dangerous, the owner or guardian received notice of it, and the dog again aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans or domestic animals.

Owners can face fines of between $100 and $500 for violating any of the St. Louis dog control laws. In addition, if owners harbor a dangerous dog that attacks someone, the owner may even face criminal penalties. While state laws restrict ownership of specific breeds, some municipalities in Missouri ban breeds like pit bulls. (In fact, recent statewide efforts could prohibit municipalities from adopting breed-specific restrictions on dogs.) Even when these animals are legal to own, the state places the onus on the owner to take protective measures when the dog is deemed dangerous.

Other Missouri Dog Leash Laws

Other municipalities throughout Missouri have dog leash ordinances. These laws vary in strictness. Most municipalities will have some type of leash law that requires the owner to exercise control of their pet when they are off their property.

For example, in certain areas, the city will impound and take control of animals that are running at large on city streets. This is also the case in many other jurisdictions in the state. Dog owners do not have “property rights” to do whatever they want because their animals can injure other people.

There Is Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Missouri

While you might think that the lack of statewide leash laws means that Missouri does not take aggressive and dangerous dogs seriously, this is far from the case. In fact, the state recently changed its laws to make it easier for dog bite victims to recover financially for the harm that they suffered.

Missouri used to adhere to the “one free bite” rule for dog bite liability. This means that the burden of proof was on the dog bite victim to show that the dog owner knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous. One way to show this was to prove that the dog was involved in prior incidents where it attacked or bit someone.

Now, Missouri’s new law is that of strict liability for dog bites. It does not matter what the dog owner knew or what measures they may have taken to protect you from the attack. All that matters is that the dog in question bit you. Once that happens, the owner will be liable for the injuries caused by the dog bite.

How Dog Owners and Insurance Companies Try to Defend Against Claims

Strict liability does not mean liability with no questions asked. One defense that dog owners and their insurance companies have tried to use is blaming the dog bite victim for the attack. They will claim that the victim provoked the dog, and therefore, they should not have to pay.

These are defenses that we are more than ready to deal with. Provoking a dog is a much higher legal standard that requires that the dog bite victim intentionally set out to cause the dog annoyance and aggravation.

Provocation includes things like poking the dog with a stick. You can imagine that most people do not provoke dogs in this way, but you should anticipate defenses like these from people who assume that you do not know the law. Provocation does not include petting a dog. In addition, the most common dog bite victim is a small child. The younger the child, the harder it is for the dog owner to prove provocation.

The other exception to strict liability for dog bites in Missouri is when a dog bites a trespasser. Rest assured that this does not relieve a dog owner from liability when you were lawfully on someone else’s property. For example, if you were invited socially or were making a delivery (such as Amazon, food, mail, etc.), you were lawfully on the property, and the owner cannot escape responsibility for a dog bite.

The Laws When You Suffer Injuries in a Dog Attack

If you suffered injuries due to a dog attack (and not a bite), different laws apply. This can cover situations where a dog jumped on you, or you hurt yourself trying to evade an aggressive and menacing dog about to attack you.

Negligence is different from strict liability in that you must prove that the dog owner acted unreasonably in failing to protect the attack. However, if you can prove that the dog owner violated local leash laws, this can be evidence on its own, and it may be enough to make the dog owner liable for your injuries.

In addition, municipalities may require that owners keep animals who have bitten someone else inside for a minimum period while authorities investigate the attack and confirm that the dog is not rabid. For example, the law in St Louis County is that a dog who bites someone must be kept inside for ten days for clinical observation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in five people bitten by a dog requires medical attention. In a recent year, there were over 2,700 dog bite injury claims reported to insurance companies that happened in Missouri. These claims can range from mild to severe injuries. The severity of the claim does not matter. Based on Missouri’s laws, the dog owner must pay for damages when their dog bites with very limited exceptions.

While not all dog bite cases are eligible to recover compensation, if a dog bites a person unprovoked, on public property, whether the owner was supervising the animal or not, the victim in the accident has the right to file a claim against the dog’s owner to recover compensation for their injuries and financial damages. For example, if a dog is not on a leash on a public road, and the unrestrained dog bites a person walking on the road, the victim can sue the dog’s owner.

The primary victims of dog bite accidents are typically children under the age of 9. According to the Humane Society, children make up roughly half of dog bite victims in this country. Dogs often cannot process the fact that children are on their level, and they view them as an intruder on their territory. In addition, children do not know how to approach dogs (although children are usually not blamed for injuries because small children are not legally responsible for their actions).

What Can I Do After a Dog Attacks Me in Missouri?

Dog bites are likely to become a growing problem in Missouri as people order more goods online and drivers make deliveries. There are legions of FedEx, UPS, and Amazon delivery people who enter others’ property to make deliveries when the owners may not be following laws or the dogs do not have the proper training to deal with the presence of others on the property. The problem may be even worse in the rural areas surrounding St. Louis where dogs do not see people entering their owner’s property regularly.

Stories like these are becoming more common in Missouri and across the country.

When a dog bite accident happens, it’s crucial to immediately:

  • Gather evidence of your injuries
  • Collect evidence from the scene of the accident
  • Get medical treatment as soon as possible, both to document your injuries and because dog bites can easily lead to infection.
  • Record information about the dog, such as its size, color, and breed
  • Call the police (a police report is often helpful when you are filing an insurance claim)
  • Report the attack to St. Louis Animal Control
  • Hire an experienced St. Louis dog bite lawyer to represent your dog bite case.

Based on data from State Farm Insurance and the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite claim in Missouri in recent years was in the tens of thousands of dollars. This places Missouri in the upper third of U.S. states for the dollar value of dog bite settlement claims.

While such information may give you a general idea of what you might expect, it may not apply exactly to your case. You never quite know the facts of each case when you hear about average numbers. For example, one thing that you do not know is the severity of the dog bite injury. If you or your loved one suffered a serious injury, chances are that it is worth far more than the average claim. Minor injury claims will result in less compensation, but it is still critical that you obtain enough to cover your medical bills and other losses.

You also do not know if the dog bite victims in those cases had a dog bite lawyer. If you hire a lawyer who knows the full value of your claim, they may advise you to reject a settlement offer that does not fairly pay you for your injuries.

Finally, cases that go to a jury are usually worth more than those you settle. The insurance company knows the value of your dog bite case, and they are trying to settle it for less than the jury might award you in damages. Jury verdicts for serious dog bite injuries can top six figures. This does not mean that it is in your best interests to take every case to court instead of settling it. However, you have some leverage if the insurance company is making you a low settlement offer and refusing to budge in settlement negotiations.

At a minimum, your dog bite injury compensation should include:

  • Medical costs (including those for rehabilitation and reconstructive plastic surgery)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma (this can be a large element of damages when young children suffer injuries from dogs)
  • Lost wages (when you miss time off from work yourself or need to take off to care for a young child who has injuries)

A dog bite injury lawyer can help value your case, so you are not at a disadvantage when dealing with the insurance company. Homeowner’s insurance companies are notorious for using every trick that they can to devalue your claim and avoid paying you what you legally deserve.

Talk to a St. Louis Dog Bite Lawyer Today

If you or someone you love suffered a bite by an unleashed dog in Missouri, you can seek and receive compensation from the dog’s negligent owner. A St. Louis dog bite lawyer can assess your case, determine who is liable in the accident, gather evidence, and bring a powerful dog bite injury claim against the dog’s owner to recover compensation for your harm and losses.

Christopher Dixon and the St. Louis dog bite lawyers at the Dixon Injury Firm know what it takes to recover the most compensation for your dog bite injuries caused by an unleashed animal. No one should have to suffer dog bite injuries, but when it does happen, our dog bite injury lawyers in St. Louis will do everything they can to get justice for your case.

Chris Dixon has recovered upwards of $35 million in settlements and recoveries for personal injury victims in Missouri and has repeatedly earned the status of “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers. If you are ready to see how Chris and the St. Louis dog bite lawyers can help with your case, call (314) 208-2808, or contact the Dixon Injury Firm today to schedule a free consultation and explore the options available to your dog bite case.