Landlord Is Generally Not Responsible for Dog Bite or Dog Attack


Minnesota Law provides strict liability against the owner of a dog if their dog bites or injures another person.  That means if you are bitten by a dog or injured by a dog, the owner is responsible for medical bills and other compensation unless you were trespassing on the property or you provoked the dog.

The law also says that “owner” includes anyone “harboring” or “keeping” a dog.  However, the words harboring or keeping a dog have been interpreted somewhat narrowly by Minnesota courts.  In general, MN courts agree that it means something more than a meal of mercy to a stray dog or the causal presence of a dog on someone’s premises; harboring means to afford lodging, to shelter or to give refuge to a dog; keeping a dog implies more than mere harboring of the dog for a limited purpose or time.


Harboring means to afford lodging, to shelter or to give refuge to a dog for a limited purpose or time.  Keeping means to undertake to manage, control or care for the dog as dog owners in general are accustomed to do. In other words, a keeper acts as if he or she is the owner but without legal ownership of a dog.  Keeping requires more than the mere harboring of a dog, or harboring itself would simply be the same as keeping. Our dog bite attorneys have wrestled with this MN law many times.

Dog Bite Sue Landlord
Dog Bite Sue Landlord

Specifically with respect to landlords, the MN courts have stated that, unless there is evidence that a landlord has control over a tenant’s dog within the tenant’s apartment or mobile home lot, a landlord is not a harborer or keeper of the dog and the landlord does not have liability for the dog if it bites or attacks someone.  The landlord is not responsible for a tenant’s dog that bit someone even if the landlord lives in the same house with the renter if the renter has his own key to his room and keeps the dog there. In other words, in most situations a landlord is not responsible if a tenant’s dog bites or injures someone.


However, a landlord is different than a homeowner who has a guest staying at his house. MN courts have held that a homeowner could be a harborer if he has a guest with a dog staying at the house. So, the homeowner would be responsible for a guest’s dog that bit or injured someone, although the dog owner would still have primary responsibility. Our dog bite lawyers have handled many cases like this.

A veterinarian is a keeper of a dog and could be liable if the dog bites or injures someone else at the vet clinic. A person dog-sitting or who otherwise voluntarily assumes the responsibility of care for the dog is keeping the dog and is responsible as well.  A groomer is a keeper of the dog and also has liability if a dog bites or injures someone while at the groomer’s shop.

If you suffer a dog bite or are injured by a dog in Minnesota, you are welcome to call our office for a free consultation.  Our lawyers are experienced with dog bite cases and can explain the insurance issues to you.  We will make sure you are fully compensated for your medical bills, scars, and any other injury.  We have offices to meet you in Edina, Minneapolis, and Woodbury.  A dog bite lawyer will also meet with you at your home in St. Paul, Roseville, Burnsville, Anoka, Maple Grove, Brooklyn Park, Richfield, and other cities throughout MN. See our DOG BITE page for more information.