In New York, the owner of a dog who either knows or should know of the animal’s ?vicious propensities? will ordinarily be held liable for the harm the animal causes as a result of those propensities. A vicious propensity does not necessarily have to be dangerous or ferocious but, rather, may consist of a proclivity to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm. Nevertheless, “normal canine behavior” is insufficient to establish a vicious propensity.
In Bloom v. Van Lenten, a professional photographer was severely injured when an English Labrador that was being playfully chased by other adult dogs ran into the back of her leg. The photographer had previously been to the client?s home on two occasions. The photographer filed suit, claiming negligence and strict liability based on the dogs alleged vicious propensities. The ColumbiaCounty trial court dismissed the photographer?s negligence claim, but allowed the refused to dismiss the strict liability claim, finding questions of fact as to whether the dog had vicious propensities of which defendants were aware. The trial court relied on prior statements from the dog owners, where they admitted that the dog had previously knocked them down.
An appeal was then filed and the appellate court determined that the case should be dismissed.? The appellate court explained that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the dog had a vicious propensity. ?The court found that
Delilah?s [the dog?s] act of running into plaintiff in the course of being playfully chased by other dogs merely consisted of normal canine behavior that does not amount to a vicious propensity.