dog with stick

The dog is man’s best friend, but sometimes, dogs turn vicious. Around 885,000 people are bitten by dogs every year, over half of whom are children. Dog owners have the responsibility to make sure that their animals do not injure others. When they are unable to do so, and a dog attack results in harm to another, the victim may recover money damages from the animal owner with the help of a Columbia dog bite lawyer.

Dog Parks

There are six off-leash dog parks located in Columbia that include fenced, off-leash areas where dogs can roam free with their owners. The parks have water areas for the dogs to drink, shade trees, benches, and pet waste stations. Some require memberships or permits for each dog, while others are free.

The parks also have various policies and amenities designed to protect dogs and their owners from harm. Some parks have separate areas for large and small dogs, which help to keep small dogs safe from being inadvertently injured by their larger counterparts. Some parks require dogs to be spayed or neutered and to be up to date on their vaccinations, including rabies, parvo, and kennel cough.

Dog parks are fun for pet owners and their animals, but they also can present a hazard. Dogs running free in the park can become overstimulated, or become vicious and attack. Further, because they are unrestrained by leashes, their owners cannot easily control them to prevent injuries.


Dog bites and attacks can be dangerous. Injuries range widely in seriousness, from minor cuts and scrapes to death. Common injuries resulting from dog bites include:

  • Lacerations;
  • Puncture wounds;
  • Infections;
  • Broken or crushed bones;
  • Nerve damage;
  • Scarring; and
  • Psychological trauma.

These injuries can require extensive medical attention, including stitches, surgeries, casts, and physical therapy.

South Carolina Dog Bite Law

Unlike many states, South Carolina does not have a one free bite rule, by which a dog owner can escape liability for a dog’s attack if the dog has not previously bitten anyone. Instead, dog owners are strictly liable for attacks by their animals. If a dog bites or otherwise attacks a person who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, then the victim may recover damages from the keeper or caretaker of the animal. Under strict liability, the victim need not prove that the dog had vicious tendencies or that the dog owner knew of the animal’s dangerous behavior beforehand in order to recover compensation.

Some exceptions to the rule exist, however. If a person provokes or harasses a dog, and that provocation causes the attack, the victim will not be able to recover under strict liability. Provocation may be purposeful, by kicking, taunting, or abusing the animal, or may happen inadvertently, perhaps by interfering with its food or stepping on its tail.

Another exception involves police work. The government will not be liable for damages resulting from an attack by a police dog who is engaged in the performance of its law enforcement duties, as long as:

  • A canine officer commands the dog;
  • The dog is trained and certified;
  • The handler and dog’s actions are in accordance with the law enforcement’s written policy on using dogs;
  • There is no excessive force; and
  • The victim is not a third party bystander.

Additionally, victims of dog attacks will not be permitted to recover damages under South Carolina’s strict liability statute if they were trespassing or otherwise breaking the law at the time of the attack, as the statute covers only victims who were in a public place or lawfully in a private place. Public places include sidewalks, streets, and parks, while private places include the victim’s own yard and places the victim is in as a guest or patron of a business or for other lawful purposes.


If for some reason a victim is unable to recover damages under a strict liability theory, such as if the victim was partially at fault because of provoking the animal, the victim may be able to recover damages from the dog owner under a theory of negligence. In order to recover, the victim must prove that the dog owner was careless or reckless in some way. For example, around 90 percent of fatal dog attacks involve an unneutered male dog. Thus, if a dog owner chose not to neuter the animal, this may be used as evidence of negligence if the dog attacks someone.


Victims of dog attacks in Columbia can recover compensation for both past and future medical expenses. This can include the costs of hospital and doctor’s bills, surgery, rehabilitative therapy, cosmetic surgery, prescription medications, and other medical needs.

Victims may also recover lost wages. Dog attacks can cause nerve, bone, and muscle damage, which can take a long time to heal. Additionally, victims may have psychological trauma that requires help from a therapist. This means that a dog attack victim may not be able to work in the days or even months after an attack. They are entitled to reimbursement for wages lost because of time spent incapacitated, at medical appointments, or in therapy.

Injuries may also result in permanent damage and cause victims lifelong nerve or muscle problems that render them unable to work in the same capacity they did before. In some instances, the victim may be entitled to compensation for the loss of future income caused by an inability to work.

Victims may also recover noneconomic damages, though they are often more difficult to quantify. These damages for nonmonetary losses may include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible harms.

Bystander recovery is also possible in some cases. It is available when a parent witnesses his or her child being attacked, or a spouse witnesses an attack on his or her spouse. The parent or spouse may recover compensation for the emotional pain caused by witnessing an attack.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack incident in Columbia, please contact a dedicated Columbia dog bite attorney at the Joye Law Firm to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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