Are we responsible for a neighbor’s cat that was bitten by our dog on our property?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Are we responsible for a neighbor’s cat that was bitten by our dog on our property?

My son and his wife were staying with us. My son left for the opposite coast and left his dog. My husband walked the dog in our yard and it attacked our neighbor’s cat which was in our yard. My husband got the neighbor who took the cat to the vet. She demanded that we get the dog out of the neighborhood. Most dogs attack cats, but to appease them my husband drove halfway across the country our son drove the other half, both incurring tolls and gas. They slept at rest stops. I thought this would be enough to appease our neighbors but it wasn’t. Our neighbor came over and handed my husband a $1500 bill for their cat. My husband said he doesn’t think we’re responsible for the entire bill since the cat was in our yard. She insisted the bill was to be paid by us and said they

could take us to court and have the dog euthanized. I told them no matter what we do it isn’t enough. I’m not sure we owe them anything more than what we’ve done. My husband thinks the vet ran the bill up because they told him we were paying it. I told them my husband spoke hastily and it’s wrong for them to try to hold him to it. Our daughter-in-law said not to pay them anything. Since their cat was on our property, are we responsible for the bill or are they?

Asked on May 2, 2019 under Personal Injury, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

No, she is wrong. You are not liable for the bill because you did nothing wrong: you were walking the dog in your own yard. You were not being negligent in supervising your dog. If anyone arguably did anything wrong, it is the neighbor, for letting their cat wander unsupervised, where it could be attacked by any animal, hit by a car, etc. Liability, or any obligation to pay for medical costs or injuries, is derived from fault; since you were not at fault, you would not be liable.
Note that this does not mean that the neighbor might not file a small claims suit against you, forcing you to respond to it: the courts do not pre-screen lawsuits to make sure they are valid. But the court should not find you liable. (Note: if a suit is filed, you must respond to it, such as by showing up for court on the designated day; if you fail to do so, you lose automatically or by default, even if you should have won.)
There is also no grounds to euthanize your dog for an attack on a cat in your own yard; that does not show a propensity for viciousness.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption