Can I use physical force against a dog that’s attacking me?

Yes, you may be able to use non-deadly or deadly physical force against a dog that’s attacking someone. In West Virginia, if you are being attacked or your life is in danger, it is lawful to use physical force against the dog, including killing the dog.

Of course, if the dog was simply running at large and not causing any harm, then others may not kill the dog. If they do, they may be liable for damages to the dog's owner. Those who violate the law may be charged with a misdemeanor offense.

What if I was injured by the dog in the attack?

Dog owners are liable for injuries when the dog was allowed to run at large whether intentional or not. So if there was a failure to lock an enclosure and the dog escaped, if it goes onto someone else’s property and attacks, the owner could be responsible for damages inflicted and the victim or others may legally be allowed to use physical force against the dog.

If the dog owner tried to sue the victim for injuring or killing his/her dog, he or she likely wouldn’t have a case. There is also a one bite statute that may apply.

If it’s not a case where the dog was running at large, the owner could potentially be liable if:

  • there was a violation of local leash laws;
  • the dog had previously bitten someone; or
  • the owner had otherwise acted in a negligent manner.

Again, this could be another situation in which the use of physical force (deadly or non-deadly) would be considered acceptable.

These types of cases can become quite complicated. It’s best to talk with an attorney who can explain how the different dog laws may apply to your particular situation. Call the Miley Legal Group in Clarksburg at 304-931-4088 or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation.

Tim Miley
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Injury Lawyer, Author, & Owner of The Miley Legal Group