A dog owner will not be liable if it can be shown that the bite victim somehow provoked the dog. There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes provocation; it should be judged on a case by case basis, which means it should be decided by a jury, at time of trial, and not by a judge on a Motion for Dismissal (aka Motion for Summary Disposition; see Civil Court Procedure page)
Examples of Provocation
- Approaching an unfamiliar dog;
- Hitting a dog;
- Ignoring written warnings, or verbal warnings from dog owners (e.g., “Beware of Dog” sign);
- Letting your dog antagonize an unfamiliar dog, without attempting to restrain your own animal;
- Letting your child approach an unfamiliar dog (while sometimes unsuccessful, the provocation defense is often floated by defense attorneys, in cases where a young child approaches an animal that really is not “such a nice doggie”.
- Anything else a defense attorney can convince a jury was sufficiently provocative conduct.