According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.5 million dog bites and attacks occur each year and more than 800,000 of those bites required medical care. Dog attack injuries can be mild in some cases, but severe injuries can include muscle damage, scars and disfigurement, infections, and diseases. In an effort to protect residents and visitors from dog attacks, both West Virginia and the city of Wheeling have enacted dog bite laws that dog owners are required to comply with.


  • One-bite law: West Virginia has what is known as a one-bite law, which means that when a dog bites a person, the owner may escape liability unless the dog has previously bitten someone or previously behaved in an aggressive manner which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the dog has the potential to bite or attack. An exception to this is for “at large” dogs, described in more detail below.
  • Strict liability: West Virginia finds dog owners strictly liable for dog bites and attacks that occur under specific circumstances. A strict liability finding means that it is not necessary to prove negligence in order to find the defendant liable.
    • Dangerous dogs – Owners are strictly liable when their dangerous dog bites someone. Dangerous dogs include dogs that have previously bitten or dogs that have acted in a way that gives warning to their owner that it has the potential to attack a person such as growling at someone or baring its teeth.
    • Dogs running at large – West Virginia’s strict liability law applies to dogs that are running at large, which means that they are unleashed and off of the owner’s property, however, it has been debated whether or not “at large” includes dogs that have escaped their owner’s property without the owner’s knowledge.
  • Negligence: Plaintiffs can bring a negligence action against the dog’s owner or someone else claiming that but for the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff would not have been attacked. Examples of non-owner negligence could be a person teasing and provoking a dog and the dog attacks someone else in the vicinity, or a childcare worker allowing a child to pet a stray dog and the dog then attacks the child.


In addition to West Virginia law, the city of Wheeling has its own dog laws that Wheeling residents must comply with. Wheeling law specifically addresses vicious dogs including Pit Bull Terriers, Canary Breed, and Bulldogs. Wheeling also provides specific restrictions and regulations for these animals relating to enclosures, muzzles, and liability insurance.

Dog bite laws in West Virginia and Wheeling can be complicated and it is important to understand the law in order to recover from your injuries and damages. It is important to note that it is not only dog bite injuries that are recoverable. For example, we were recently able to secure a $250,000 recovery for a client who was knocked down by a neighbor’s dog causing her to fracture her hip. If you have suffered injuries caused by a dog, contact a Wheeling dog attack attorney with Shenderovich, Shenderovich & Fishman. We know the law and we are ready to fight for you in order to see that you recover from all of your injuries and damages.

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