‘Beware Of Dog’ Signs: Do They Protect Owners From Liability?

There are several reasons why the owner of a dog might post a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign on their property. The sign – typically written in bold black and white lettering – may be hung as a deterrent, scaring off potential intruders. In other cases, owners may hang the sign to warn visitors of the dog’s presence. Finally, these signs are posted by owners of aggressive dogs to absolve themselves of liability in the case of a dog attack.

Dogs can be a very beneficial tool for protecting property. Criminals and other unwanted visitors are oftentimes less likely to trespass on someone’s land if there is a dog around. Unfortunately, this means that dogs sometimes attack well-meaning people. Even when a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign is posted, this can mean the owner bears some liability.

If you see one of these signs when visiting an unfamiliar piece of property, take it seriously. Choosing to ignore this warning is a foolish move, as the signs are typically not posted as a prank. However, if you are attacked and suffer injuries as a result, that warning may not offer the owner the legal protection they anticipate.

Davis Law Group, P.S., was recently retained by a UPS driver who was attacked by a pack of pit bulls while making a delivery in Puyallup. In the police report, the property owner is quoted as saying that ‘Beware of Dog’ or ‘No Trespassing’ signs were posted on his property. The man also stated that, “insurance companies don't like 'Beware of Dog' signs as that shows they know they have dangerous dogs and it is a liability.”

The following is an excerpt from the police report: 

“(The property owner) states there was a yellow plastic diamond sign on the driveway gate and now it is gone. He states it was there yesterday. It said, 'Beware of bad ass dogs' or something to that effect. We looked for the sign but we couldn't find it….I thought it was interesting he is now telling about a sign posted when earlier he stated that a sign would show liability and their insurance company, Farmers (insurance) could possibly cancel the insurance policy.”

Washington State Dog Bite Liability Laws

The Evergreen State has relatively strict liability laws for dog bites and attacks:

  • Posting a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign or similar warning could prove to be an admission of the dog’s aggressive nature.
  • Dog owners must prove the victim of the attack was illegally on the property to eliminate liability.
  • In general, the ‘Beware of Dog’ signs should serve as a warning to passersby to not provoke the vicious dog. Again, it doesn’t remove liability for the owner if that dog does attack.

If you own a dog that has ever caused a severe injury on a person or other domestic animal, Washington State law requires you to post a prominent sign on your property warning people of the dangerous dog. You are also required to display a warning symbol of some sort warning children of the dog.

Dog owners are responsible for their dogs. If someone is legally on a piece of property, there is no just cause for a dog attacking them. Washington State’s dog bite law applies regardless of whether the dog has a history of vicious behavior, which is an important distinction.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a dog bite attack, you probably have questions regarding your case. Attorney Chris Davis of the Davis Law Group is considered by many to be the best dog bite law attorney in Washington State. Contact the team at Davis Law Group at 206-539-0969, use the chat feature below or fill out the contact form on this page to schedule your free legal consultation.

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