Generally in New York, a dog owner has to have reason to know that his or her dog was a “dangerous dog” and/or had “vicious propensities” in order for there to be liability for a dog bite claim. Some people might refer to this as the “one free bite” law – meaning that an owner gets a free pass for the first time that the dog bites a victim – but this is not quite accurate.
If the dog has previously bitten a person or other animal, causing injury or death to the person or animal, then the dog will be considered a “dangerous dog” under New York law, and the owner will be strictly liable for other injuries caused by the dog. But a previous biting incident is not the only way for an owner to know that the dog is dangerous and/or has vicious propensities, and thus to be strictly liable for dog bite injuries. New York courts have recognized that even where a dog has not caused death or injury, so long as the owner was aware that the dog had a “proclivity to act in a way that put others at risk of harm,” the owner may still be strictly liable for injuries caused by the dog.