beware-of-dog

Beware of Dog Signs: Protecting You, Your Dogs, And Your Visitors

Having a dog is fantastic. It can improve your social interaction, blood pressure, cholesterol, stress levels, and overall health. Dogs make great companions, they’re great with kids, and they’re not terribly expensive to have as pets.

In addition to being man’s best friend, it turns out a dog can also be extremely beneficial when it comes to safety and protection. Having a dog or two can help deter thieves and unwanted trespassers. In Jack MacLane’s study, “Secrets of a Superthief,” he concludes that 95 percent of thieves and burglars are deterred by dogs.

But your dogs can also be a huge liability. If your dog ends up biting another animal or a human, you could be sued for any damages and oftentimes more. Sometimes his desire to protect you can even cost your dog his life.

That’s why it’s critical to mitigate your risks of liability in any way that you can. One of the best ways to protect yourself — and your dog — is to tell people you have a dog on your property by posting clear and visible signs.

The way in which signage protects you varies greatly from state to state so it’s critical that you know what your state laws say. I have gone through each state’s laws on dogs to determine whether or not having a sign posted would prove to be beneficial to you. I have also included some of our relevant sign design templates for you if you’d like.

Disclaimer: I don’t profess to be a lawyer. I am giving you my interpretation of the legal swamp I waded through for you. You’re welcome. Also, if you want real legal advice, you need to consult a lawyer.

Alabama

Alabama offers no written protection through “beware of dog” signage. However, your dog owner liability is significantly lessened if someone trespasses on your property. That means having a “no trespassing” sign could definitely help your case.

Alaska

Alaska offers no protection with signage. In fact, any dog considered vicious can be lawfully killed if it is running at large.

Arizona

Arizona law provides that a person with knowledge of a dog’s vicious propensity must also keep the dog in an enclosed yard or confined area with a sign indicating the dog’s vicious tendencies.

Arkansas

Arkansas offers no protection through signage. You may want to consider dog bite liability insurance.

California

California offers no protection through signage.

Colorado

A dog owner shall not be liable to a person who suffers bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death from being bitten by the dog: While the person is on property of the dog owner and the property is clearly and conspicuously marked with one or more posted signs stating “no trespassing” or “beware of dog”.

Connecticut

Offers no protection through signage.

Delaware

If Delaware officials find a dog to be dangerous, the owner must display a sign warning that a dangerous dog is on the premises. The sign must be visible and legible from the roadway or 100 feet, whichever is less.

Florida

Unless the person is under the age of six or if the damages caused by the dog are because of some other negligence on the owners part, if the owner has displayed a sign in a prominent place on their property that is easily readable and has the words “Bad Dog”, the owner is then not liable.
Owners of dogs classified as “dangerous” must post a clearly visible warning sign at every entry point of the property. It must warn children and adults alike about a dangerous dog on the property.

Georgia

Owners of dogs classified as “dangerous” or even “potentially dangerous” must post clearly visible warning signs noting a dangerous dog at every entrance of the property where the dog resides.
Owners of dogs classified as “vicious” must post clearly visible warning signs of a vicious dog at every entrance of the property where the dog resides.

Hawaii

If you have clear warning signs of a dog adequately posted on your property, then a person who is not licensed or privileged to enter or remain on your property is liable for any damage from the animal.
Posting a “no trespassing” sign may to mitigate any potential liability as well.

Idaho

Offers no protection through signage.

Illinois

Offers no protection through signage.

Indiana

Under Indiana’s common law, all dogs are presumed to be harmless which means that the plaintiff will basically have to claim negligence on the owner’s part. It would most likely help the dog owner’s case if he/she had a couple of warning signs up on the property.

Iowa

Liable unless you can prove that the person was engaged in an unlawful act such as trespassing. Throw up a “no trespassing” sign on your property and you’ll certainly have a better case.

Kansas

In general, if you have no reason to believe that your dog would bite someone and it does, you will not be held liable. Obviously, this will only work the first time.

Kentucky

Offers no written protection through signage. In fact, if anyone witnesses a dog attacking a human, they can kill it without any liability.

Louisiana

If you own a dog classified as “dangerous,” then you have a responsibility to post signs no more than 30 feet apart and at every single entrance point of your property. The signs must bear the words, “beware of dog,” or “dangerous dog,” in letters at least three-and-one-half inches high and must be readily visible to any person approaching the enclosure.

Maine

Offers no written protection through signage. In fact, if your dog bites someone even if they trespass on your property, that won’t reduce the damages they can recover for any physical injury they incur.

Maryland

Offers no written protection through signage. In fact, any person may kill any dog which he sees in the act of pursuing, attacking, wounding, or killing any poultry or livestock, or attacking human beings whether or not such dog bears the proper license tag required by these provisions. There shall be no liability on such persons in damages or otherwise for such killing.

Massachusetts

Your liability is seriously mitigated if someone is caught trespassing on your property. Make sure you have a “no trespassing” sign posted on your property.

Michigan

You are absolutely liable for any injury your dog may cause, unless the person was trespassing on your property. Your liability will be much less if you have a “no trespassing” sign on your property.

Minnesota

Owners of dangerous dogs must post their property with a clearly-visible warning sign that includes a symbol to inform children that the dog is on the property. Dangerous dog liability insurance may is an additional avenue to pursue.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, there is no written protection through signage. If your dog bites someone, he/she must prove that your dog was dangerous prior to the attack or that you should have known it was dangerous. In this case, it may prove beneficial to have no-trespassing signs up on your property instead.

Missouri

As the owner, you are liable if your dog bites someone up to the amount the courts determine you are at fault. If you can prove that the victim was at fault as well, your liability will decrease by the percentage that you can prove fault by the victim. Having a “beware of dog” sign and “no trespassing” signs could certainly prove to be helpful in placing some of that fault on the victim.

Montana

You are liable for any damage your dog does as long as the other party is not doing anything illegal. Again, it may prove to be beneficial to have “no trespassing” signs at each entry to your property to mitigate your liabilities.

Nebraska

The owner of what is considered a dangerous dog must post warning signs on the property where the dog is kept that are clearly visible from all areas of public access and that inform persons that a dangerous dog is on the property. Each warning sign shall be no less than ten inches by twelve inches and shall contain the words “warning” and “dangerous animal” in high-contrast lettering at least three inches high on a black background.

Nevada

In order to be liable for dog bite injuries, the victim must prove that you were negligent and that your negligence caused your injuries. This means that having dog warning signs would definitely be beneficial in helping protect you from negligence.

New Hampshire

As the owner, you are held strictly liable of any injury unless the plaintiff is found guilty of trespassing. Once again, the “no trespassing” sign comes into play here.
Also, if you want or have an official guard dog on your property, you must have a sufficient number of signs on your property to adequately warn the public.

New Jersey

If you have a dangerous dog, you must have signs that are visible and legible from at least 50 feet away that give proper warning of the dog

New Mexico

If you own a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog in New Mexico, you must post clearly visible warning signs with clear warning symbols indicating a dangerous dog on the property. The signs must be clearly visible to the public from 50 feet away.

New York

In New York, there is no written protection of your canine through signage. However, you still may be able to lessen the damages that could be claimed if you have clear and sufficient signage notifying the public of your dog.

North Carolina

There is no written protection of your dog through signage. However, you may be able to lessen the plaintiff’s case of negligence if you had clearly visible “beware of dog” and “no trespassing” signs up.

North Dakota

There are no written protections for your dog through signage in North Dakota.

Ohio

If you own a dangerous or vicious dog, you are required by law to have posted clearly visible signs at your residence warning both minors and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property.

Oklahoma

If you own a dangerous dog, you are required to post clearly visible warning signs that there is a dangerous dog on the property. You must also display a sign with a warning symbol that informs children of the presence of a dangerous dog.

Oregon

In Oregon, if the victim can prove negligence as the reason for the injury, you will be held liable. Having danger: dog signs and “no trespassing” signs could help you prove that you were not negligent.

Pennsylvania

If you own a dangerous dog, you are required by law to post clearly visible signs that warn of a dangerous dog on the property. You must also display a sign with a warning symbol informing children of a dangerous dog.

Rhode Island

If you own a vicious dog, you must display signs warning people of your dog. Your signs must be clearly visible and capable of being read from a public street.

South Carolina

South Carolina contains no written laws helping to avoid liability of your dangerous or potentially dangerous dog through signage. However, if you are training bird dogs, you have to post a sign every 150 feet or less that designates the area as “Private Bird Dog Training”.

South Dakota

South Dakota has no written laws mitigating liabilities through signage. However, a victim must prove the owner’s negligence in order to win a claim. If you as the owner put up signs warning people about your dog as well as “no trespassing” signs, this could potentially limit your liabilities.

Tennessee

Tennessee has a very strict liability statute: There is no liability for a dog that is protecting someone from being attacked. For you to be held liable, the non-attacking victim must prove negligence on your part. Having “beware of dog” signs and/or “no trespassing” signs will help to mitigate your risks of being negligent.

Texas

If you own a dangerous dog, it must be in an enclosure on your property which is clearly marked as containing a dangerous dog.

Utah

In Utah, the amount of liability you have is determined by comparative fault. As a dog owner, this means if you can prove that the plaintiff is 30% liable, you are only 70% liable. Having dog warning signs and “no trespassing” signs at the entrances of your property, as well as near any enclosures for your animal, should help to make the plaintiff more liable.

Vermont

In Vermont, the victim of an injury provoked by a dog must prove negligence by the dog’s owner. As the owner, having signs warning people of the risk of entering your property could help to lessen any negligence claims.

Virginia

Owners of dangerous dogs must post signs that are clearly visible to both adults and minors warning them of the dog on the property.

Washington

If you have a dog that has ever inflicted severe injury on a human or domestic animal, you are required to post a sign conspicuously placed on your property that warns people that a dangerous dog is on the property. You must also display a warning symbol of some kind that will warn children of the presence of a dangerous dog.

West Virginia

West Virginia does not have any written laws lessening your liability through signage. In fact, if your dog is running at large (without a leash) and injures someone, you will be held liable. Your negligence does not have to be proven. Your dog liability is high in this state.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers no protection through signage.

Wyoming

Wyoming does not offer any written protection through signage. The victim must prove negligence on the owner’s behalf with allows the owner to try to lessen their own liabilities through having clearly visible signage on their property. Interestingly, a victim can recover (get money) by showing that your dog has dangerous propensities and they can prove that just by showing that the breed of the dog can have dangerous propensities.

Although I’m not a lawyer, I will say this: Even if your state doesn’t claim any written protection for you or your dog through signage, in my opinion, warning people is still a good idea. The mere fact that you have a sign up may prevent people from trespassing for fear of getting bit. That alone potentially lessens your chances of being sued. Also, having signs posted warning people of the dangers of entering your property may still potentially lessen your liabilities, even if your state doesn’t specifically say it will.

In my opinion, if you have a dog, have a sign.

Nelson James

Nelson James is the chief operating officer of Signs.com and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. Prior to joining the Signs.com team, Nelson was the president and co-founder of SEO.com. For over 6 years he helped to grow the company from 2 to over 85 employees. Nelson managed many large accounts during his tenure at SEO.com, including Dell.com. In early 2011, Nelson was recruited to Lendio Inc., where he was VP of marketing and was responsible for the creation and management of a marketing team as well as the strategy, tactics and programs to create interest and demand for Lendio’s products and services. Prior to his work experience, Nelson graduated Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in marketing and advertising from the communications department. Nelson lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three children. He currently holds leadership positions in scouting and volunteers in his church and community.