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What are common defenses to dog bite cases in Minnesota?

Sand Law LLC has seen many dog bite cases. Here are the the most common defenses we’ve come across.

Minnesota is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. However, that does not mean that a defendant or their insurance company will lay down without a fight.

The three most commonly raised defenses in these cases are:

  1. 1. that the injured person was provoking the dog
  2. 2. that the injured person was trespassing when they were bit
  3. 3. that the statute of limitations has run out, barring the claim in its entirety

It is important to note that because Minnesota is a strict liability state regarding dog bites it is an uphill battle for the defendant or their insurance company to assert these defenses. For reference, the Minnesota Statute (Minn. Stat. 347.22) governing dog bites is quoted in its entirety below:

“If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained. The term ‘owner’ includes any person harboring or keeping a dog but the owner shall be primarily liable. The term ‘dog’ includes both male and female of the canine species.”

What are common defenses to dog bite cases in Minnesota - Sand Law LLC - Dog Bite Attorney

Common Defenses to Dog Bite Cases

To improve the likelihood of a good outcome for your dog bite case, it’s important to consider defenses that commonly come up. From there, plaintiffs can work through counter-defenses that are suited to the defense as needed.


To recover in a dog bite case in Minnesota, the injured party must not have provoked the dog and must have been acting “peaceably” and “lawfully”. Basically, this means that the defendant or their insurance company can claim that the injured party had provoked the dog to a degree where it was their fault that the dog bit them. This defense is similar to a comparative fault defense where a defendant claims that the injured party is also at fault for their injuries.

Provocation of a dog to bite someone is a tricky defense. Many Minnesota juries have been known to struggle with determining what constitutes provocation. Generally, provocation of a dog to bite includes taunting, kicking, or throwing objects at a dog. In these situations, a provocation defense can be held up by the defense because the plaintiff provoked a dog into biting them. However, this is not always the case. Very often, animal attacks are unprovoked or outside of the victim’s control.


An injured person cannot assert a claim if they were trespassing when the dog bite occurred. This means that an injured person may only bring a claim if they were legally present on the property when the dog bite occurred. Dog bite claims are permissible when the bite occurred on either private or public property. So long as the injured person was on the property legally.

An example of a valid application of this defense would be a case where a robber broke into a home and was bitten by a dog. Since the robber was not on the premises, legally his claim would be defeated based on the defense of trespass.

Unless someone is actually trespassing on private property, a dog owner can be held liable for injuries to a victim that occurs either on public or private property.

Statute of Limitation

A statute of limitations defense is not specific to dog bites. Instead, it is a broad defense in all sorts of both civil and criminal actions. In other words, once a certain amount of time has passed, an injured party is barred from bringing forth their claim or filing a lawsuit. There are ways to “toll” or extend this time period, however, these are often complex.

The statute of limitations in most dog bite cases is six years. It is a good rule of thumb to contact a dog bite attorney soon after the injury to avoid having the case thrown out.

How Sand Law LLC Can Help

The personal injury attorneys at Sand Law are skilled in handling these issues throughout Saint Paul and greater Minnesota. Contact us for a free consultation where we can explain your rights and zealously advocate for you.

Come visit us at one of our offices in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, White Bear Lake, or Woodbury, Minnesota. You can also call us at 651-291-7263 or visit us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.