Veterinarian’s Rule: Defense available to the Dog Owner

When an injury is caused by a dog bite, one of the defenses that a pet owner can invoke is the veterinarian’s rule. It is a complete defense that can remove all liability from the part of the dog owner. There are two aspects to this defense, the pet owner’s lack of duty of care and the assumption of risk on the part of the kennel workers, dog groomers, or veterinarians.

No Duty of Care

The law does not impose a duty of care on the part of a dog owner when it comes to a veterinarian or kennel worker. This means that the owner does not need to take any steps to ensure the safety of the workers. A pet owner cannot be held liable for breach of duty of care because it is not imposed in this instance.

A pet owner, however, must not also intentionally conceal or misrepresent a dog’s tendencies to workers. For example, if the dog owner knows that his dog is prone to biting people, then he should at least make a mention of this fact to the vet or kennel worker. Failure to do this can make the dog owner liable.

Assumption of Risk

The law presumes that the kennel workers and veterinarians who work with dogs are well aware of the hazards that come with the job and that they willingly assume this risk. There is an assumption of risk if the kennel worker, dog groomer or the veterinarian is employed and compensated for their service.

If the service provided is on a voluntary basis, and the personnel is not employed, then the dog owner cannot claim the veterinarian’s rule as a defense. The rule only applies in the first instance where there is both employment and compensation. Absent these requirements the dog owner can still be held liable.

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