“Man’s best friend” may also be a source of liability for their owners as well as those who may be keeping a dog for a friend. South Carolina is among more than half the states in the United States with laws that hold dog “keepers” liable for injuries a dog causes. Appropriately called dog-bite statutes, the South Carolina statute covers all kinds of dog-inflicted injuries – not just dog bites. (1)
Dog-bite statutes are also called “strict liability” statutes because they impose liability without fault. This means that an injured person does not have to prove that the dog’s owner, or the individual caring for a dog, did anything wrong. It does not matter if the person was careful with the dog, or did not know that the dog would hurt anyone, or if the person tried to keep the dog from injuring anyone. Moreover, those caring for a dog can be liable even if the person had no reason to think the dog was dangerous.
The general theory behind South Carolina laws governing dog liability is that anyone who owns a dog should be responsible for any damage their pet causes – period. The South Carolina dog-bite statute has several noteworthy points:
- Dog owners and individuals “having dog having the dog in the person’s care or keeping.”
- The keeper is responsible for the full amount of the injury sustained.
- The keeper is not liable if a person provokes or harasses a dog into attacking him/her.
- A keeper is not liable if the dog the dog was working in a law enforcement capacity.
- A keeper is not liable if the dog was engaged in scientific endeavors by institutions of higher education.
- Liability is limited when the injury is caused by a dog acting playfully.
To protect yourself from liability, owners and keepers should not allow a dog to run at large off of property owned, rented, or controlled by the owner or keeper. He or she must also keep their dog restrained by a fence, chain, or other means so that the dog cannot reach persons not on land owned, leased, or controlled by the owner/keeper.
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(1) S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-110