Indiana Dog Bite Laws You Should Know

Indiana state law recognizes the unpredictability of pets, especially when dealing with a dispute on private property. It’s important for dog attack victims to understand the key aspects of Indiana dog bite laws and their implications in personal injury cases.

If you have additional questions about dog bite cases in Indiana, please contact one of the Evansville dog bite attorneys at Tuley Law Office.

Indiana Dog Bite Statutes

The Indiana dog bite laws are laid out in Title 15 of the Indiana Code under Article 20, Animal Control. Chapter 1: Liability for Dog Bites establishes the following:

Subdivision Powers

State agencies and political subdivisions have the power to adopt a rule or an ordinance regarding dog bites as long as it does not conflict with [IC 15-20-1-1].


As used in this chapter, “owner” means a person who possesses, keeps, or harbors a dog. [IC 15-20-1-2]

Strict Liability for Government Workers

Suppose an unprovoked dog bites a person acting peaceably and discharging duties under state or federal laws, including the postal regulations of the United States. In that case, the owner of the dog is liable for all damages related to the bite. This is true even if the owner has no knowledge of prior vicious behavior by the dog. [IC 15-20-1-3]

Criminal Offenses

An owner may face Class C misdemeanor charges if they fail to take reasonable steps to restrain a dog or if the dog bites or attacks another person without provocation. The offense may be charged as a Class B misdemeanor if the owner has been convicted of a previous violation of this section.

Felony penalties may apply to owners whose recklessness or violations of this section have resulted in the wrongful death of a person. [IC 15-20-1-4]

Wolf Hybrid and Coydog Liability

A wolf hybrid (the offspring of a wolf and another animal) or coydog (the offspring of a coyote and another animal) owner is required to keep the animal in a secure enclosure, on a leash less than eight (8) feet in length, or under reasonable control at all times. Tethering or chaining a coydog or wolf hybrid does not constitute reasonable control.

An owner of a wolf hybrid or coydog commits a Class B misdemeanor if their animal causes damage to someone else’s livestock or personal property. This offense may be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if the animal causes serious bodily injury to a person. [IC 15-20-1-5]

Exemptions for Government Owners

An owner employed by the United States, its agencies, or a governmental entity is exempt from liability if the dog bites a person while assisting the owner in law enforcement or military duties. [IC 15-20-1-6]


A law enforcement officer or other person with the authority to impound animals may do so if they have probable cause to suspect a violation of this section. [IC 15-20-1-7]

Negligence in Dog Bite Cases

Negligence is vital to establishing liability for a dog bite. If an owner fails to take the proper precautions to prevent an injury, they will be held responsible. On the other hand, if the owner was taking reasonable actions based on the dog’s past behavior, there may be no case.

Most U.S. states uphold either strict liability or the one-bite rule when determining fault in dog bite cases.

What Is the One Bite Rule?

In most Indiana dog bite cases, the one-bite rule will be applied. This prevents a dog bite victim from pursuing damages if the dog was not known to attack others without any provocation.

What Is Strict Liability?

Strict liability means an owner is responsible for their dog biting someone, regardless of whether the dog has been aggressive in the past or not. Strict liability applies to certain protected classes, such as police officers and government workers. For example, if your dog bites a U.S. postal worker in Indiana, you will be strictly liable for those injuries.

Strict liability, the one-bite rule, and reasons for holding a negligent dog owner accountable are important factors in animal attack cases. However, a victim might also need to answer for their own actions in the incident or face shared liability.

What Is Shared Liability?

Some dog bite accidents involve the victim sharing liability with the owner. The court will examine both your actions and the dog owner’s actions, assigning fault per Indiana’s modified comparative negligence system. If you are found to be more than 51% at fault, you will not be able to recover compensation from the dog’s owner.

Here are the most common ways victims may share fault in dog bite lawsuits:

  • Provocation, such as throwing things at the dog, cornering it, threatening its puppies, hitting it, or teasing it
  • Trespassing on the owner’s property when the bite occurred
  • Ignoring growling, barking, or other warning signals from the dog
  • Failing to exercise reasonable care, such as poking fingers through the holes of a dog carrier
  • Choosing to interact with a dog they knew to be dangerous

Landlord Liability for Dog Bites in Indiana

Under certain circumstances, a landlord may be liable for a dog bite. Those circumstances include where:

  1. The landlord knew the dog was violent and failed to remove it,
  2. The landlord took on a caretaker role for the dog,

It’s worth noting that landlords can be held liable for bite injuries from a tenant’s dog in cases where the landlord showed extreme negligence and/or did not have the proper insurance to cover the dog bite injuries.

What to Do After a Dog Bite Injury

There are many factors involved in getting justice for a dog bite injury. However, victims can help their personal injury cases succeed by:

  • Understanding when dogs can be held strictly liable
  • Carefully documenting injuries and medical treatment costs
  • Collecting evidence to meet the standard of negligence
  • Speaking to an injury attorney as soon as possible to learn your options.

If you have been involved in an Indiana dog bite incident, simply fill out our contact form to reach out to our team for a free consultation. We will assume the burden of pursuing compensation, getting you the monetary benefits you are entitled to while you focus on your recovery.