Am I Liable For Running Over An Unleashed Dog?

My fiance hit an unleashed dog that darted into the street. His owner was outside but he was not on a leash. He stopped and asked if the dog was okay because it ran off and the dog owner said just leave. After we get home this man shows up acting crazy. What are the laws for leashes in Bay Saint Louis, MS?

Ordinance Number 388 states that it is unlawful for dog or cat to be “at large,” meaning that dogs must be leashed or otherwise contained. If the dog was in the street and your fiancé was not driving recklessly, he likely has no liability to the dog owner. If, however, your fiancé was not driving responsibly (i.e. if he was speeding), he may have liability up to the actual costs incurred (i.e. vet bills or replacing the dog). If, however, your fiancé experienced any damage to his car, and the dog was on a public street, then your fiancé could pursue the dog owner for damages, even if the dog was severely injured or killed.

Most likely, the owner is very upset, and this will blow over on its own. You may choose to offer to help with vet costs, but you are probably not obligated to under the law. You should know that if you do help to pay for vet bills, this cannot be used against you if the owner tries to sue you. The law doesn’t want to discourage people from being generous, so payment of bills like that can’t be used as an admission of guilt in a lawsuit.

Depending on the situation, you may choose to report the incident to the City, which may then cite the owner for disobeying the City Ordinance, if it was disobeyed. This may anger the owner more, but it may also be a way to tell the owner that your fiancé is not at fault for the incident. You’ll have to use your discretion as to whether reporting the incident would be beneficial to you.

If the owner continues to “act crazy,” you can speak to your local police about harassment charges and temporary protection orders.