Tenant's dog attacked my husband!

95 Replies

Two weeks ago my tenant's dog (listed on her lease) attacked my husband as he dropped by to deliver a Christmas basket (no good deed goes unpunished?).  Jumped up and went for my husband's throat/neck but fortunately my husband was able to duck and instead got bit in the face and mouth (rather than a potentially fatal neck wound).  My husband turned to run and was then bit on the backside twice before tenant could restrain dog.  Authorities were notified and dog was quarantined for 10 days but is now back at the house.  After discussing with our attorney, we decided to withdraw consent for the animal as this places us at risk of liability for potential future attacks, since we know now how vicious the animal can be, even when unprovoked.  Our lease gives us the option to revoke consent for the animal, providing 30 days notice to the tenant.  We have offered her 30 day notice to get rid of him, as well as the option to terminate the lease early without penalty if she doesn't want to get rid of the dog (which we don't have to do, but are doing so out of kindness).   I have emailed, texted, called and sent a certified letter, but still no response from tenant whatsoever.  We are obviously hesitant to go to the house in person out of fear of future attacks but I know hiring an eviction is expensive, and we are not to that stage yet - just want to communicate with her on her plans.  Attorney says we can threaten to sue for injuries from dog if tenant is uncooperative, but we want to avoid that, and an eviction, if at all possible.  Any suggestions?  I am honestly shocked that our tenant is being so avoidant/elusive, with how kind we are being given the circumstance!!  We could certainly go after her just for my husband's medical bills, but instead are being kind and understanding - but getting very frustrated at her lack of reply!

Do you require renters insurance? It may cover dog bites.

You need to get rid of that dog.    In time you will...

Post another letter on front door from your lawyer office. Let them know you are very serious. Be business like do not give in.

Updated 4 months ago

I will take a photo of the house with letter pasted and address as proof that they got a letter as well.

@Sarah Buchanan clearly you need to get rid of the dog.  Keep in mind that this tenant is showing her true colors now that she feels she is under some stress. Often people don't face reality until they are ready to get evicted. File for eviction, breach of lease or whatever is appropriate.  That may trigger a response from her. 

@Sarah Buchanan First, I am so sorry this happened and I hope your husband heals up fast.  Ok, now I get mean.

1. This is another reason you REQUIRE renters insurance.  Do you know if they have it?  If they do you need to let your insurance company know so they can go after them.

2. I am probably suing them if this is me.  Sorry,  well behaved and safe animals do not do this kind of thing.

3. I am also contacting the police and local animal control and seeing what can be done to get the animal put down.  That will depend on state but in many, an animal that attacks like that is DONE (AND THEY SHOULD BE) that could have been a kid and it could have killed them..

4. ALSO I am evicting them.  There are several items in the lease probably covered by this.

Just out of curiosity, what type dog is it?

The fact that tenant has dissapeared shows alot.  I am not a dog person, and i really do not like dogs that attack.  So i would be calling animal control and filing a complaint. I also would have my attorney contact tenant and give them the get rid of dog or cancel tenancy talk. 

Usually once folks know the big guns are out they will decide life is easier elsewhere. However, if tenant continues to be unresponsive i would go the only legal route you have which is filing notices then eviction if it gets that far. 

But no mater what - the dog needs to be put down. 

Editing to add: i also would have my insurance go after her renters Ins. And if she doesnt have it I would be asking for her to pay medical bills co pays. 

I have this provision written into my pet agreement.

(Any animal that causes or appears to be a threat to any person on the premises or any animal with a history of aggressive behavior will be considered a dangerous animal. Management retains the right to remove dangerous animals immediately.)

@Sarah Buchanan

You want the dog gone cheaply, legally, and without fuss, mess, or ongoing rancor. You need to resign yourself to the fact that all these things are not going to happen, barring a minor miracle.

My way of handling this would be to put your husband in his boots, fleece pants under jeans, and a heavy farm coat/Carhatt jacket, Give him a tire billy. You take a canister of animal pepper spray with you -- you can get one on Amazon. If the dog attacks again, do what you need to do to defend yourselves.

You need to open the lines of communication to get anywhere, and this is the cheapest way to do it.

Quit playing around with the tenant get the evection started. Every day that you do not serve them is a day that you have lost revenue

Dog has to go and so is the tenant. 

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@Richard Sherman Thank you for your reply.  Yes, thankfully she does have renter's insurance which specifically covers the dog.  But I still want the dog out.

Being kind and understanding is not getting anything accomplished. What you are doing is actually avoiding doing anything. The writing is on the wall if you can not read it you are not trying.

By not beginning the eviction process immediately you are being negligent and will be partially responsible if the dog attacks someone else while it is at your property. 

As a responsible landlord you never avoid taking steps to protect your business and others. Do what is necessary and evict now. Stop avoiding your responsibilities.

Originally posted by @Sarah Buchanan :

Two weeks ago my tenant's dog (listed on her lease) attacked my husband as he dropped by to deliver a Christmas basket (no good deed goes unpunished?).  Jumped up and went for my husband's throat/neck but fortunately my husband was able to duck and instead got bit in the face and mouth (rather than a potentially fatal neck wound).  My husband turned to run and was then bit on the backside twice before tenant could restrain dog.  Authorities were notified and dog was quarantined for 10 days but is now back at the house.  After discussing with our attorney, we decided to withdraw consent for the animal as this places us at risk of liability for potential future attacks, since we know now how vicious the animal can be, even when unprovoked.  Our lease gives us the option to revoke consent for the animal, providing 30 days notice to the tenant.  We have offered her 30 day notice to get rid of him, as well as the option to terminate the lease early without penalty if she doesn't want to get rid of the dog (which we don't have to do, but are doing so out of kindness).   I have emailed, texted, called and sent a certified letter, but still no response from tenant whatsoever.  We are obviously hesitant to go to the house in person out of fear of future attacks but I know hiring an eviction is expensive, and we are not to that stage yet - just want to communicate with her on her plans.  Attorney says we can threaten to sue for injuries from dog if tenant is uncooperative, but we want to avoid that, and an eviction, if at all possible.  Any suggestions?  I am honestly shocked that our tenant is being so avoidant/elusive, with how kind we are being given the circumstance!!  We could certainly go after her just for my husband's medical bills, but instead are being kind and understanding - but getting very frustrated at her lack of reply!

 The tenant is reacting how I'd expect a tenant to react in this situation. So you're going to need to get used to this type of stuff as it's par for the course.

You have tried communicating & it didn't work so you'll want to move to eviction. You can't operate this business in fear of doing an eviction. The cost is low & it's part of the territory. It's your 1st but certainly won't be your last. Just rip the band aid off now.

You also need to get the state troopers to check the dogs rabies certificate. It happened to us when a tenants dog bit their friends kid who showed up unannounced. The troopers were there within the hour & I had to be there are well.

One of our investor friends bought a rental from us. The tenant had a big dog & the investor had been there many times working on the property & no problems. A month after he took possession the dog attacked him. 

You have tried to work it out like adults and it obviously has not worked.

At this point I would sue her, evict her, and then go after her in small claims and garnish her wages for the lost rent and medical bills if it comes to that. Make them feel what it is like to be held accountable for once.

I would also ask for the Christmas basket back. Ok, that was a joke.

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@Sarah Buchanan

And we still don't know what kind of dog this is! Come on, Sarah, it's time for the big reveal...

Haha thank you for the humor, friends!  It has been a stressful few weeks so I appreciate your helpful comments and humor! :)  

The dog is a cane corso.  We allowed it, with the requirement that our tenant carried a specific coverage on her renters insurance for it, because it is not one of the breeds specifically excluded by our insurance (such as pit bull, bull dogs, etc).  In doing further research since the incident however (as a new landlord, in hindsight I realize I should have researched it sooner) we have learned that it's such a rare breed that it's not on most insurance companies radar, but is just as vicious/ferocious with a history of many fatal attacks and should be excluded.  I'll be notifying my insurance company of this, will update my lease to allow me to immediately revoke consent (current lease requires 30 days) and will obviously be much more selective about what pets are allowed in this rental in the future.  In a perfect world I would not allow pets but every single applicant I've had for this property has been a dog owner...

Also - South Dakota is a 1 bite state meaning the dog's vicious propensity is established after only 1 attack - but sadly Animal Control here is a joke!!  We reported it right away, took them several hours to come.  They quarantined the dog for 10 days to check for rabies and that was it.  We asked if they would put the dog down or remove it - no.  They said "It depends on the viciousness of the attack"... I'm not sure how multiple bites to the face are not considered vicious so maybe it has to be a fatal attack?  

@Sarah Buchanan I am really surprised with how animal control handled this. Did they give you any explanation why they let this dog out? 

My dog was attacked at the dog park in Sioux Falls. Animal control was called and did nothing besides giving me the owners phone number. My vet bill was $300 and the vet told me that dog park injuries are VERY common here.

I have two concerns:

1. She drops the dog at the Humane Society without telling them about the dogs history, so the dog ends up with an unsuspecting family. Dog hurts someone else.

2. The tenant leaves your property and goes to another unsuspecting landlord. There is no way she will disclose this because nobody would rent to her.

I would start and complete the eviction process. It is fairly inexpensive to file and have a process server give them notice. That avoids a situation where the tenant claims they didn't receive notice. 

I can tell you from experience that once a tenant goes dark and is unresponsive, it is all down hill. Most likely once they are served notice to quit, they will just leave on their own. 

@Sarah Buchanan while your attorney is at it for the renter, have him fire off a demand letter to animal control, the county (I am assuming it is county, if not then City) manager, probably copy the DA and local police demanding that they handle this and holding them responsible for future issues with the dog of which you have notified them....that should light the proper fire.... we did something similar for a neighbors dog at one of our properties that bit a child from our property.  Attorney letters are a GREAT weapon...usually not more than a couple hundred bucks.

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