Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: August 17, 2023 1:35am CDT
Dogs are man’s best friend and have been for thousands of years since we first domesticated the wolf. Dogs have become faithful companions that people enjoy for friendship, affection, and protection.
A common practice for dog owners concerned for their safety is to have their larger breeds trained as guard dogs and have the skills necessary to protect their household.
While guard dogs are not as popular with domestic households as they used to be, the practice is still alive and well. This is especially true when the dog breed already has an aggressive disposition and size that optimizes its capacity to serve as a guard dog.
Still, an aggressive breed does not inherently make the dog a candidate to be a guard dog. That is an issue if the dog is hostile to anyone it does not recognize. So certain dogs are a clearer safety threat to those with no prior relationship, even if they mean no harm.
What Does a “Beware of Dog” Sign Mean?
With this aggression and the inclination for dogs to be very territorial, many owners have used “Beware of Dog” signs as a disclaimer to warn others about their animals and to stay off their private property.
It’s very common to see these “Beware of Dog” signs on backyard gates and garage doors across residential areas and private property. Walking down a suburban neighborhood street, you’ll likely see at least a few with their red, white, and black colors warning you.
FAQs Beware of Dog Signs [Video]
Beware of Dog Sign Laws
While it’s agreed these signs are meant to serve as a warning, many people are overconfident in believing the dog signs act as the only needed warning to absolve themselves of any legal responsibility should their dog bite someone.
Although they remain prevalent, the viability of these signs as a legal defense is less solid than the owner might expect.
Having a “Beware of Dog” sign is unlikely to help should you face a dog bite case over an injury your dog inflicted on someone else.
As always, we can’t know the specifics of your case, so we recommend any dog owner who is part of a dog bite lawsuit seek legal advice from a defense attorney who can help protect them regarding their situation.
Similarly, if you were the dog bite victim who suffered the attack, we recommend you speak to a personal injury law firm for a free consultation.
For starters, let’s discuss how “beware of dog signs” can legally protect you from liability as a dog owner and what is needed for a victim to successfully file a dog bite case.
Does a “Beware of Dog” Sign Protect You Legally From a Lawsuit?
The answer to whether “beware of dog” signs legally protect dog owners from a lawsuit is more complex than you might have hoped. Few questions are easily answered in absolutes when dealing with dog bite laws.
So the answer that personal injury law firms will apply to your legal question about does beware of dog signs give legal protection to homeowners is: “it depends.”
The circumstances surrounding a dog attack claim are the defining factors of any case since they alter who is legally responsible and who is the personal injury victim, and if they have a strong lawsuit worth pursuing.
While the viability of a “Beware of Dog” sign might seem like a minor detail for any case, any law office will tell you that it does carry some weight and will often be brought up by the plaintiff and the defendant in dog attack cases.
Typically, the traditional Beware of Dog sign carries little weight when defending yourself from legal claims.
This statement is not to say they are entirely useless for pet owners but that the scope of their legal protection benefits is severely limited.
Dog owners post the warning signs to serve as a cursory warning to anyone passing their home that a dog is on the premises and to keep off the owner’s property. A common theme is that they don’t want trespassers.
Unfortunately, the phrase “Beware of Dog” is vague and indirect. It could leave things open to interpretation for those reading it. “Beware of Dog” can be misconstrued as a threat or joke among specific demographics.
Some people may assume you may not even own a dog but are bluffing to scare them away. Similar to how homeowners place fake alarm system signs in their front yards or stores have fake security cameras in use to prevent shoplifting.
Neutral Wording May Help Legal Defense in Dog Bite Injury Claim
If you are genuinely interested in using signs like these to warn people about your dog and its being on private property, you should use signs with neutral language that is direct and easy to understand.
Usually, the best signs to put up around your home are No Trespassing signs or “Dog on Property” signs. These signs and phrases tend to convey a more direct and assertive message to would-be intruders and neighbors.
Knowing that having the beware of dog warning signs on your home can help to varying amounts, we still need to discuss when the signs apply to your legal defense and when they are not critical.
Taking the steps now before you have an incident on your hands is the best way to avoid losing a dog bite lawsuit.
Keep in mind going forward, the “Beware of Dog” sign does retain some merit as a deterrent but cannot be relied upon as a full measure and does not protect you like a general liability insurance policy.
When Does the Beware of Dog Sign Help Owners?
Most dog bite incidents occur in public areas where a dog and a stranger might interact to some degree. Neighborhood streets and city parks are two common places where dog bite injuries can happen.
These public areas are where the average citizen is given an expectation of safety and where “Beware of Dog” signs are not applicable. Typically, the victim of a dog bite in a public venue is given priority, but there are situations where the responsibility for the dog attack lies solely with the victim.
The story changes when the incident occurs on the dog owner’s private property and the victim is in the dog’s territory. The signs posted on a home are designed to protect the homeowner’s interests from those who might trespass on their territory.
Nevertheless, they do not guarantee protection from legal ramifications if your dog bites someone on your property.
You will have limited legal protection if you have a dog prone to biting intruders and post a sign.
Specifically, the situation where the sign protects you to its fullest is if someone trespasses on your property, such as by jumping a fence or smashing a window. Your dog will likely bite the intruder to protect you and its territory from them forcing their way in uninvited.
Since this intruder is on your property illegally, they are afforded fewer rights to safety while on your property. Even as trespassers, they are afforded protection from illegal behavior on the homeowner’s part.
However, the protection scope for intruders becomes limited as trespassing is a crime and will likely lead to the provocation of your dog, and the sign warned them about your dog and the risk of getting bitten on your premises.
So by your dog guarding you, it protects you from becoming a victim of an intruder’s crime.
Trespassers and Provocation Legally Protects Dog Owners in Lawsuits
Trespassing is not the only way a “Beware of Dog” sign can be validated within the confines of the law. Placing a sign on your property that warns others about your dog puts a degree of responsibility on them to avoid antagonizing or irritating your dog.
If Dog Bite Victim Provokes Your Dog, It Can Be Their Negligence
This means people sticking their hands through your fence, despite the signage, makes them responsible for their negligence and disregard of the information you provided for their protection.
Unfortunately, this more or less concludes the range of protections your signs offer, and everything else becomes your responsibility.
While you likely placed your “Beware of Dog” sign to prevent trespassing and theft, not every dog bite injury on your property is the victim’s fault.
In many situations, it can be quite the opposite reality. Sometimes, the sign does nothing to absolve you of responsibility for your dog’s actions.
When Does the Beware of Dog Sign Not Help?
While a “Beware of Dog” sign is often considered the only tool available to protect you from dog bite liability claims, there are times when the signage is not enough. The sign is intended to alert people who have no right to be on your property about your dog’s presence.
This warning of your dog being on the premises is meant to act as a deterrent to keep people from attempting to access your property without permission unless they want to fall victim to your dog’s attacking behaviors.
While provisions exist to prevent you or your loved one from being liable for what your dog does to trespassers and criminal provocation with most state laws, you have to ensure the protection of everyone else your dog might endanger.
That means you must prevent your dog from harming others on or off your property if it is within your ability.
However, a dog’s behavior is ultimately the dog owner’s liability, and you must be able to prevent them from being a danger to those around you.
This concept might initially give the impression that you must restrain your dog when you have visitors. While this is true, it is only part of your obligations as a dog owner.
Your responsibility to keep your dog under control and not at risk of attacking extends to those who are not on your property.
If your Dog Bites Someone That You Invited Into Your Home
To start, you will need to take measures to prevent your dog from harming people you invite onto your property. The “Beware of Dog” sign will inform guests that a dog is present on the property, but they cannot be expected to preemptively guard themselves against your dog.
It falls on you to ensure your dog cannot harm your guests.
If You Are Not Following Fence and Leash Laws for Dogs
You must ensure your dog cannot leave the house and property without your supervision and the legally required restraints.
For house guests and workers allowed on your home or property, restraining your dog means keeping them in a crate or safely locked in a fenced-in backyard until your guests leave.
In these situations, if there is a dog bite incident, you will be seldom protected from your being held liable by having a “Beware of Dog” sign posted on your house. A “Beware of Dog” sign can quickly become a weak defense in court if you do not adequately restrain your dog.
Putting up a sign to warn people about your dog is not enough once the dog leaves your property.
If your dog can escape your house and run rampant through the streets, you can’t say the dog bite victim should have headed the warning from the “Beware of Dog” sign you posted on your property.
For example, let us say that you put up a “Beware of Dog” sign for your German Shepherd with an aggressive disposition, or in legal terms, “vicious propensities.”
German Shepherds are a large breed of dog that has the ability to jump over tall barriers to defend their territory. So if the only restraint you have in place is a fence that your dog can jump over, the sign won’t help you as you would not be doing your due diligence.
To be proactive and remedy the issue, you could have the height of the fence increased to be too high for your dog to jump over or confine your dog to a closed kennel so that it cannot escape.
Otherwise, any injuries your dog inflicts following an escape are your responsibility, and a “Beware of Dog” sign will not be able to prevent this.
These signs are limited because they are only meant to inform people of a dog on your property. That means the area outside your property is supposed to be safe for your neighbors, passersby, delivery personnel, and anyone else nearby.
If they were not on your property illegally, your dog’s actions are your responsibility, regardless of the sign.
Failing to maintain a hold on your dog and preventing them from injuring others could lead to severe consequences for you and your dog.
What Are the Consequences of Dog Bite Incidents?
You could face significant consequences if your dog bites or injures someone who was not trespassing on your property. The main consequence of your dog harming someone will most likely be the subsequent personal injury claim that the victim will likely file against you.
Civil suits following these injuries have become a common practice in modern society. However, criminal dog bite cases can and do take place from time to time.
These civil tort claims are extremely important since it allows the victims of negligent tort behavior to recover their financial losses from suing the defendant for money.
Usually, car accident cases are the most common source of personal injury claims, but dog bite incidents can be just as viable for these types of civil lawsuits.
As the pet’s owner, you are responsible for any harm your dog inflicts on another person. Depending on the severity of the injuries, you might end up paying for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional damages the victim sustained.
These claims are not likely to occur if the victim was trespassing on your property, but a victim of negligence will have every right to file suit against you.
Generally, you will face financial consequences as you will likely be expected to pay the victim for their injuries, property damage, and medical bills. Unfortunately, the potential consequences for your dog are more severe.
Most states have laws in place to ensure a dangerous dog that has bitten someone is unable to present a threat ever again. That means the dog may be euthanized to ensure they no longer threaten the populace.
While the prospect of your beloved dog being put down is horrifying, specific provisions in some states and localities prevent premature euthanasia.
Most states will only euthanize a dog after it has bitten someone on two separate occasions. If it is your dog’s first offense, it will likely not be euthanized, yet the civil consequences will lie solely with you.
Additionally, the plaintiff cannot request that your dog be put down as part of their compensation, ensuring no vendettas color the judgment.
What are Strict Liability Laws for Dog Attacks?
In many states, there are tort laws known as strict liability laws. The statutes hold dog owners liable for the first dog bite attack upon an innocent victim, even when there was no prior indication that the dog had a vicious propensity and posed a risk of biting.
These laws make it significantly easier for injured victims to successfully sue the pet owners, as the burden of proof is much lower.
Regardless of the number of times your dog has bitten someone, your “Beware of Dog” sign will likely not serve as a defense.
Nevertheless, you will probably end up in a lengthy legal battle where you must defend yourself and your dog. Unfortunately, there might be a financial strain while the claim is underway.
Closing Statements on Beware of Dog Signs and Liability Lawsuits
Owning a dog is an incredible responsibility that too many believe is limited to remembering to feed and walk them. In reality, owning a dog means you assume responsibility for its actions and must prevent it from harming other people.
Most dogs are relatively docile and will not present a significant threat to anyone, but others are more likely to actively attack people walking by your home.
A “Beware of Dog” warning sign will not apply to incidents where the dog should have been unable to access the victim. For that reason, ensure you have the resources and space to care for your dog and prevent it from escaping to attack another human.
Otherwise, you might be battling as the defendant against personal injury attorneys in a civil lawsuit and having to deal with the cruel potential of being required by the local authorities to euthanize your companion.
Dog Bite Lawsuit Funding
We at Express Legal Funding understand that dog bite attacks are unfortunate for all parties involved. That’s why we, as a lawsuit funding company based in Plano, TX, can offer dog bite lawsuit victims pre-settlement funding as a non-recourse cash advance.
So you can gain access to some of your potential settlement or trial award money now and not only later when your case successfully resolves.
The way pre-settlement funding can work and be risk-free is because the repayment to us, the legal funding company, is contingent upon the outcome of your claim and is not made as a loan to you. So that is why “if you lose your case, you owe us nothing really works that way.”
We purchase a portion of your potential settlement or trial award money because we believe in the merit of your case. However, if you lose and there is no settlement money to repay us, then we don’t get paid.
(It is important to note that the money we can provide to plaintiffs in Missouri is a loan and, therefore, not risk-free. Pre-settlement loans in states like Missouri are loans and must, technically by law, be repaid. Express Legal Funding-Missouri, LLC is licensed to give these loans in MO.)
The overall concept is that simple. The inverse is true. If there is no potential settlement or money to win in court, we can not advance you any funds.
That means we cannot provide lawsuit funding to dog owners, the defendants, who are the parties that get sued by dog bite lawyers who seek to recover money for their clients in personal injury claims.
So, if you want to learn more about getting financial help through our pre-settlement funding service for a civil lawsuit or have a dog bite case, give us a call anytime, 24/7. We look forward to helping you today.
You can call to apply anytime and learn about how legal funding for your case may be the best financial option for you.
About the Author
Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.
Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.