Tennessee Haunted By Flaw In Dog Bite Law As Fourth Victim Dies

On November 12, 2007, 21-year-old Jennifer Lowe of Knox County, Tennessee, died after she was mauled by her roommate’s pit bulls. 

The new Tennessee dog bite statute, enacted in 2007, specifically re-enacted the one-bite rule for dog attacks occurring on the dog owner’s property. In re-enacting this ancient and unfair law of Great Britain, Tennessee specifically declared that there would be no civil liability for maulings and killings of human beings at the homes of dog owners. 

I believe that this bizarre and unprecedented dog bite statute resulted from pressure that the insurance industry exerted on Tennessee lawmakers. The purpose of the one-bite rule in modern America is to keep injured people from making insurance claims — a goal that benefits the insurance industry at the expense of the victims, who are mostly little children. 

The original version of the bill would have completely eliminated the one-bite rule in Tennessee. I cannot believe that the lawmakers who amended the original bill knew what they were doing. Citizens of Tennessee should demand that the state have a modern dog bite statute making every dog owner liable for every dog bite — meaning, in other words, that insurance will be required to pay for all maulings and killings, not just the ones that fit the limited scope of the 2007 law.

The killings that took place in Tennessee after the passage of this new law illustrate how terrible the law is. Three residents of this state were killed by dogs after the law took effect, and all three deaths occurred on the property of the dog owner. All three deaths were excused civilly under the new law. A powerful argument can be made, and should be made, that the one-bite rule makes dog owners less vigilant and that it therefore is a cause of this carnage.