Lately I’ve noticed more and more “Beware of Dog” signs on people’s property as I walk my dog around my neighborhood. These signs are on fences and in windows, and it made me think about whether I should post a sign on my gate?
Sharing your life with a dog provides unconditional loving companionship, and helps improve health physically, mentally, and emotionally. Pet ownership also enhances your social skills, and it decreases your risk for heart attack.
So you have a dog or have just adopted a dog, the question is, should you post a “Beware of Dog” sign?
A “Beware of Dog” sign can suggest that you have a dangerous dog, so if someone does enter your yard and your dog bites them, depending on your city or county laws, you may be liable. In this era of lawsuits, you need to be very careful what you claim.
On the other hand, signs can deter people with undesirable motives if they know you have a dog. In fact, statistics show that dogs discourage criminals up to 95% of the time. ††
What if your dog bites someone on your property? With a posted sign, the visitor, or the intruder was warned. Of course, this can always come back to bite you (no pun intended) if they claim that the posted sign implies your dog is vicious, and they did get hurt.
It may just be semantics, but instead of a Beware of Dog sign, why not create one of your own? You could say “Dogs in Yard.” That’s a gentle way of alerting the public of their presence without indicating behavior. “Dogs on Premises” gives a warning to service people such as gas, water, or electric readers before they enter. Or my favorite – post a photo of your dog saying, “I can make it to the gate in 2.8 seconds.”
Generally, signs let people know you have a dog or dogs, while making no legal indication of aggression or viciousness.
Whether you post a sign or not, it is imperative that you have a padlock on your gate and that it is locked tight at all times. Not only will the lock protect your dog from getting loose, it will protect them from being stolen.
Kids that can’t read or understand the meaning of the sign can open you up to a lawsuit if they are able to get into your yard and are bitten. Yet another reason to lock your gates at all times.
If you have a dog for protection or for the purpose of discouraging unsavory people from entering your property, keeping your dog on a chain is useless. Plus, if someone does enter your yard and approaches your dog in his space, he could very well defend his area by biting. Restrained dogs live day after day in the area allowed by the chain, and unknown people who infringe on that territory can oftentimes be in danger.
Arizona law provides that a person with knowledge of a dog’s vicious propensity must keep the dog in an enclosed yard or confined area with a sign indicating the dog’s vicious tendencies. If you post a sign and someone breaks in and is bitten or hurt by your dog, it may help you in court since you made the public aware that a dog was on your premises, but there is no guarantee that you won’t be sued, or lose your case.
For information on laws in other states, click here.
†† Jack MacLane’s study, “Secrets of a Superthief”