South Carolina’s Dog Bite Laws

If you are the victim of a dog bite or attack in South Carolina, then you have a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner or keeper. The Charleston dog bite attorneys at Futeral & Nelson, LLC can help. In this article, our Charleston dog bite lawyers explain your legal rights if you are attacked by a dog and give practical tips to avoid being the victim of a dog attack.

What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone in South Carolina?

Some states allow for a “one bite” scenario. In those states, the dog owner or keeper is not liable for the dog’s attack if it was the first attack and the dog hadn’t otherwise shown any signs of aggressiveness. South Carolina’s laws don’t allow for “one bite.” Instead, South Carolina’s laws favor dog bite victims. Section 47-3-110 is a “strict liability” statute. In other words, whether a person is attacked by a dog in a public place or in a private place such as the dog owner’s home or yard (assuming you were lawfully on that person’s property), the dog owner is liable for any injuries. Also, a person who is caring for or keeping the dog, even if not the owner, can be liable for any injuries if the dog attacks a person. The only exception to this “strict liability” statute is if the victim provokes the dog into attacking.

This FREE eBook for pet owners has practical information on South Carolina’s animal laws and regulations, veterinary malpractice, animal cruelty, laws on vicious and dangerous animals, legal claims for dog bites, and much more.

Facts & Statistic About Dog Bite Injuries & Victims

The following statistics come from the National Canine Research Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Humane Society of the United States.

  • Approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year
  • Nearly 800,000 dog bites require medical care
  • Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered
  • Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs
  • Approximately 71% of bites occur to the extremities (arms, legs, hands, feet)
  • Approximately two-thirds of bites occurred on or near the victim’s property, and most victims knew the dog
  • Approximately 24% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs off of their owners’ property
  • Approximately 58% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners’ property
  • Among children, the rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for 5 to 9-year-olds
  • Children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites
  • Male adults are more likely than female adults to be bitten

Legal Claims for Dog Bite Injuries in South Carolina

Dog attacks oftentimes result in serious and life-threatening injuries. The injuries our Charleston dog bite lawyers deal with include:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Infections
  • Lacerations
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring and disfigurement; and
  • Psychological and emotional trauma

For these injuries, the victim can recover the cost of medical bills and any future medical treatment, the cost of reconstructive surgery to deal with scarring, damages for emotional distress, damages for any temporary or permanent physical and psychological impairment, punitive damages for willful or reckless acts by the owner or the keeper of the dog, and other damages. In some cases the parent of a child (or a spouse) can recover damages for any injuries to their child (or their spouse) if the parent (or spouse) observed their child (or their spouse) being attacked. Under South Carolina law, this is known as “bystander recovery.” Essentially, the bystander can recover damages for the emotional harm caused to them by witnessing the attack.

Practical Tips for Preventing & Avoiding Dog Bites

Although many dogs are gentle in nature, there are several things that both dog owners and others can do minimize the risk of a dog bite or attack.


  • Spay/neuter your dog. Spaying/neutering typically reduces a dog’s aggressive tendencies.
  • Don’t encourage aggressive behaviors such as wrestling with your dog.
  • Don’t let small children interact with your dog unsupervised.
  • Even if your dog is on a leash, do not allow children and other persons to get nose-to-nose with your dog.
  • Socialize your dog with other persons at an early age.
  • In public, always properly restrain your dog on a leash.
  • Teach your dog to be submissive by rewarding them to roll over and expose their abdomen and to give up food without growling.
  • If your dog displays aggressive behaviors, seek advice from a veterinarian, and animal behaviorist, or dog trainer to redirect your dog’s behaviors.


  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • Don’t run from a dog or scream.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Don’t pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first. Also, when petting a dog, don’t reach behind the dog’s head.

Animal Attack Lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina

If you need a lawyer in Charleston, SC for injuries from a dog bite, call the attorneys of Futeral & Nelson, LLC today for a free consultation.

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