Happy smiling dog walking in park

I Don’t Leash My Dog. Can I Be Liable?

If you’re a dog owner in Tennessee, it’s in your best interest to always have your dog leashed. Tennessee law categorizes two types of liability.

First, if your dog injures someone on your own property, you can be liable if you know the dog may be likely to hurt someone.[1]

Second, if your dog is not on your property, you have a duty to make sure that your dog is reasonably controlled and not running at large.[2] Running at large means that the dog is not on a leash or under your direct control.[3] When your dog is running at large, you are liable for any injury or damage regardless of how safe and cautious you are with your dog.[4]

Despite this, there are a few exceptions. The most common include a police dog causing an injury in the course of its police work, an injury to a trespasser, a dog defending its owner from someone breaking the law, or when someone provokes the dog.[5] These exceptions are rare. It’s best not to rely on them, and instead make sure when you have your dog out in public, the dog is leashed. This potentially mitigates your liability for injuries caused by your dog.

How Can We Help You?

Snider & Horner, PLLC represents dog bite victims and dog owners. We are familiar with both sides of a dog bite case and we know what evidence to obtain and present in order to best help our clients.

  • If you’re the owner of an animal that has injured another person, you should report the incident to your homeowner’s insurance right away. Many times, your insurance will take care of such a claim. If you do not have insurance, you should speak to an attorney.
  • If you are a dog bite victim, you should call the police and/or animal control and seek medical treatment. If you are able, take pictures of the dog, the scene, and your injuries. Obtain witness information and contact an attorney who can help make sure that you’re compensated for your injuries.

Contact Snider & Horner, PLLC at 901-751-3777 if you need help with a dog bite case.


[1] Tenn. Code Ann. 44-8-413(c),

[2] Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413(a)(1).

[3] Tenn. Code Ann, § 44-8-413(e)(2); Dalton v. Dean, 136 S.W.2d 721, 722 (Tenn. 1940).

[4] Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413(a)(2).

[5] See Tenn. Code Ann.§ 44-8-413(b).