One Free Bite

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The so-called “one bite rule” has been around for centuries. The rule was a well-established tenet of English common law as far back as the 1600s and the principle migrated to the United States with English law after the Revolutionary War. Typically applied to encounters between humans and dogs, the rule holds the owner blameless for injuries inflicted by an animal if the owner had no prior knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensity to bite.

The rule, in most cases, gives a dog a free pass the first time the animal bites someone. After the first incident, though, the owner obviously will not be able to claim a lack of knowledge about the dog’s tendency to bite. A majority of states have either done away with the rule altogether or have adopted statutes that modify it, but at least 18 jurisdictions still adhere to the basic principle

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