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Bill Would Protect Kentucky Landlords From Liability If Tenant's Dog Attacks

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A legislative panel has approved a bill that would protect a landlord from liability if a tenant’s dog attacks another person.

Under current law, a landlord can be held responsible if a tenant’s dog attacks someone on property owned by the landlord.

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Republican from Winchester who sponsored the bill, said landlords are “strictly liable” for dog attacks even if they don’t know a tenant has a dog.

“Without this fix, landlords can expect to be sued in more cases of dog bites without regard to the landlord’s knowledge,” Alvarado said. “This, in turn, will increase the cost of liability insurance and, consequently, prohibit tenants from having dogs on rental properties.”

A 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court decision expanded the definition of “dog owner” to include landlords in dog attack cases.

Vanessa Cantley, a Louisville injury attorney, said the current law shouldn’t be changed because it gives victims recourse if they’re attacked by a dog whose owner doesn’t have insurance.

“It doesn’t put the burden on an innocent party, it puts the burden on those in the best position to either prevent the incident from occurring or cover for the damage that’s done,” Cantley said.

Cantley also said current law doesn’t hold landlords strictly liable — they can still prohibit dogs as part of a tenant’s lease and wouldn’t be liable for those who wrongly enter a property by trespassing.

State Sen. Chris Girdler, a Republican from Somerset, said a landlord shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of a tenant’s dog.

“I don’t believe it’s a legitimate function of government to try and insure and compensate everyone from every possible form of harm that may come to them,” Girdler said.

In 2014, Girdler proposed a bill that would have removed landlords from the definition of “dog owner.” That bill passed out in the state Senate but wasn’t taken up in the House.