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  • Ann Sheeley

Rhode Island’s Dog Bite Laws – Steps to Take If You've Been Bitten by a Dog

Updated: Apr 15

While dogs are considered “man’s best friend,” all dogs - big or small, male or female, young or old - have the potential to bite. Many people unfairly blame a dog’s breed, but the fact is even the sweetest pup on the planet can snap. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. One out of five bites cause an injury that requires medical attention and leaves lasting scars on the victim’s face, hands and legs. Sadly, nearly half of dog bite victims are children, who are most prone to serious injury.


In this blog, you’ll learn about Rhode Island’s Dog Bite Laws and the steps to take if you or a loved one were the victims of a dog bite incident. As always, Sheeley Law is available 24/7 for a free consultation.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlements - Dog Bites

Rhode Island’s Dog Bite Laws


Determining who is liable in a dog bite case depends on several factors, most notably if the bite occurred on or off the owner’s property. In Rhode Island, we have "strict liability” dog-bite laws, meaning the owner (or whomever the “keeper” of the dog was at the time) is liable for any injury or property damage caused by the dog if the incident occurred off the owner’s property.


Strict liability does not apply to bites that occur on the owner’s property, nor does it apply if the person bitten antagonized the dog or was trespassing at the location where the bite occurred. If the attack occurred on the dog owner’s premises, then the “one-bite rule” may apply. This states that the owner of the dog is liable for the injury if he knew that the dog would act in an aggressive manner because of a prior bite incident, history of aggression or a recent injury or trauma that’s made the dog more sensitive, fearful or overly protective.


In addition, Rhode Island’s Dog Bite Laws state:

  • If a person is found liable for its dog attacking and injuring someone a second time, the damages will be doubled.

  • The laws apply not only to the dog’s owner(s) but anyone who is considered a "keeper" of the dog. This could include a dog walker, dog daycare facility, etc.

  • The incident does not always have to include a “bite.” The law pertains to any injury brought on by the attack.

  • The laws apply to not only humans but also if the victim was another dog, cat or other domestic animal, such as a horse.

Steps To Take If You've Been Injured by a Dog Bite

  1. Seek Medical Attention: This is the first and most important step after a dog bite, even if your wound seems minor. Dog bites can lead to serious infections and complications, so it's essential to have a healthcare professional assess the injury and provide appropriate medical treatment.

  2. Report the Incident: Reporting the incident to animal control or the local police department, creates an official record and may prevent future attacks by the same dog.

  3. Document the Incident: It is important to gather as much information as possible to support any potential legal claim, including the dog owner’s information and contact information from any witnesses who saw the incident occur. Their testimony may be valuable in establishing liability. If possible, you should take photographs of the bite wounds from multiple angles, as well as any torn clothing or property damage resulting from the attack.

  4. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney: Dog bite cases can be complex and require an attorney experienced in this specific type of personal injury case, such as Attorney Ann Sheeley to review the specifics of your case and advise you on the best course of action. If you file a personal injury claim, your attorney will guide you through the litigation process, handle communication with insurance companies, protect your rights and negotiate a fair settlement for your injuries and damages.

  5. Know Your Legal Rights: Depending on the circumstances of the incident, you may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Medical Expenses: Including hospital bills, medication, rehabilitation, and any future medical care related to the dog bite.

  • Lost Wages: If the injuries prevent you from working temporarily or permanently, you may be able to recover lost and future lost wages.

  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and psychological trauma resulting from the dog bite.

  • Property Damage: Reimbursement for any property damaged during the attack, such as broken belongings.


Safety Tips


We are dog lovers at Sheeley Law. We are also insistent about responsible pet ownership. Many dogs are very protective of their human families and might bite because they think their owners are in danger. Remember, it is not a dog's breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog's individual history and behavior. Below are some tips for you and your family to avoid a dog attack:

  • Never leave a dog outside unattended when there is no fenced or enclosed area.

  • Small children should always be supervised around any dog.

  • Always keep your dog on a leash during walks.

  • Never approach a dog on a leash without first asking the owner’s consent.

  • Use extreme caution when allowing your dog to socially interact with other dogs or people, especially if they are unfamiliar.

  • Enlist in professional training for you and your dog.


Sheeley Law has more than 25 years of experience and a proven track record of helping dog bite victims obtain maximum compensation for their losses. We understand animal attacks can be a traumatic experience that causes physical injuries, emotional distress, and unexpected medical expenses.  

Attorney Ann Sheeley oversees each case personally and will be by your side, guiding you every step of the way with care and compassion, until you get the settlement you deserve. If you have questions or would like a free consultation, contact us at 401-619-5555 or email












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