Plea to Abolish the “One Bite Rule”

Over the past several years, the states that give every dog one free bite have seen more fatal dog attacks. (To see which states have which laws, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims. See the breakdown of fatalities and state laws at Dog Bite Statistics.)

That lone statistic supports the view that the one bite rule needs to be abolished in the USA. This old English law demands little or no vigilance on the part of dog owners. A single dog owner can own one biting dog after another, without fear of civil liability, because every dog gets that one free bite, mauling or killing. (To learn more about the deadly one bite rule, see The One Bite Rule.)

Most American states and the District of Columbia have rejected the one bite rule in whole or part because its primary effect in modern times is to prevent dog bite victims from making insurance claims for anything more than medical expenses. (See Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA for a list of the strict liability states, plus links to their laws.) Dog bites are covered by liability insurance, such as homeowners, renters and some umbrella insurance policies, but the victim still must prove that his claim rests on legal grounds. The one bite rule makes this difficult or impossible in many cases, and therefore benefits insurance companies at the expense of the injured, who are mostly children.

There should be no right to bite. The one bite rule should be rejected in every state and country. Children in one bite states like Texas, North Carolina and Maryland are entitled to the same rights as kids in strict liability states.