A dog bite victim in Idaho can recover compensation under the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter and intentional tort. There is no dog bite statute so this is a "one bite state."

Scienter (the One Bite Rule)

The traditional doctrine that makes a person liable for harm inflicted by a domestic animal is referred to as "scienter" (the Latin word for "knowingly"), "common law strict liability," and "the one bite rule." As it applies to dog bites, this doctrine holds that a victim can recover compensation from the owner, harborer or keeper of a dog (a) the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the defendant was aware of the dog's previous conduct. If either of those conditions are not met, however, the victim cannot employ this doctrine as a ground for recovery. See The One Bite Rule.

The one bite rule is the foundation of dog bite law. It exists in every state. The majority of American states have supplemented it with statutes that make dog owners responsible for all bites including the first one. These so-called "dog bite statutes" sometimes extend to people other than dog owners and injuries other than dog bites. Furthermore, the majority of states impose liability on dog owners and others under a variety of other legal doctrines, including negligence, premises liability, nuisance, and negligence per se for a violation of an animal control law such as a leash law, a law prohibiting dogs from being at large, or a law prohibiting dogs from trespassing. If the one bite rule or any other doctrine works against a victim, therefore, another might support his claim for compensation. See generally Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.

Idaho does not have a dog bite statute. Critics have asserted that not having a dog bite statute is at odds with modern American beliefs about personal responsibility, because the one bite rule shields a dog owner from liability each time one of his dogs bites a person for the first time unless it can be proved that the owner knew that the dog had the propensity to bite people without justification. See Criticism of the One Bite Rule. Whether one agrees with these critics or not, it nevertheless is true that a dog bite victim has more to prove in the absence of a dog bite statute.

Negligence per se

Idaho statute 25-2805 applies to (a) any dog running at large after the sheriff has notified the owner of a complaint, and (b) "any dog which, when not physically provoked, physically attacks, wounds, bites or otherwise injures any person who is not trespassing." The law does not provide for the payment of damages to an injured person, but makes it a crime to allow such a dog to run loose again. Violation of the (a) section is an infraction; violation of the (b) section is a misdemeanor; a second violation of the (b) section can lead to seizure of the dog. The significance of this statute is that a violation of it constitutes negligence per se. 

The violation of Idaho statute 25-2805 or an animal control law can result in liability for negligence on the part of the violator, whether or not he owns the dog. See Boots v. Winters (2008) 145 Idaho 389. States, counties and cities often have laws requring dogs to be on leash, or prohibiting them from being at large or from trespassing. With few exceptions, courts have ruled that violating such laws can be the basis of liability. In this state, the violation constitutes negligence per se. See, for example, O'Guin v. Bingham County, 142 Idaho 49, 54, 122 P.3d 308, 313 (2005), holding that a landowner may be liable under a theory of negligence per se where the landowner violates a statutory duty.


Idaho permits a dog bite victim to recover compensation on the ground of negligence. Negligence is the lack of ordinary care; that is, the absence of the kind of care a reasonably prudent and careful person would exercise in similar circumstances. "[E]very person, in the conduct of his or her business, has a duty to exercise ordinary care to prevent unreasonable, foreseeable risks of harm to others." Turpen v. Granieri (1999) 133 Idaho 244, 247; Sharp v. W.H. Moore Inc. (1990) 118 Idaho 297, 300. A cause of action for common-law negligence in Idaho has four elements:  (1) a duty, recognized by law, requiring the defendant to conform to a certain standard of conduct;  (2) a breach of that duty;  (3) a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the resulting injury;  and (4) actual loss or damage.  Nation v. State, Dept. of Corr., 144 Idaho 177, 189, 158 P.3d 953, 965 (2007).

If a person's conduct in a given circumstance doesn't measure up to the conduct of an ordinarily prudent and careful person, then that person is negligent. For example, letting a stray dog into a day care center is negligence. See Negligence. A duty also will arise when one voluntarily undertakes to perform an act, even though there is no general legal obligation to do so. Udy v. Custer County (2001) 136 Idaho 386, 389; Coghlan v. Beta Theta Pi Fraternity (1999) 133 Idaho 388, 400. The fact that a landlord accepted a pet deposit of $100.00 from a tenant, for the purpose of keeping one dog on the rented premises, was insufficient evidence that the landlord undertook a duty to protect third parties from the tenants' dangerous dog. Boots v. Winters (2008) 145 Idaho 389.

Landlord liability (premises liability)

Landlord liability for a tenant's dog is generally impossible to assert in Idaho. A landowner owes an invitee the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition or to warn of hidden or concealed dangers. Holzheimer v. Johannesen (1994) 125 Idaho 397, 400. The danger must be a physical danger as opposed to a dangerous activity. Turpen v. Granieri (1999) 133 Idaho 244, 248. The presence of a dog is considered to be an activity, not a physical danger, and therefore a landlord cannot be held legally liable to protect people from a tenant's dangerous dog. Boots v. Winters (2008) 145 Idaho 389. 


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