Cat Bites In Minnesota Law

Robert Edwards Aug. 2, 2018

Two weeks ago a woman came in my office and asked for my help concerning a cat bite that she had suffered when a neighbor's cat had bitten her on the hand and upper arm as my client was trying to remove the cat from her own home. The neighbor lets the cat run loose in the neighborhood all the time.

Most people would think that a cat bite wouldn't be as big of a deal as a dog bite. In a lot of cases that thinking would be incorrect. Legally there is a huge difference. In Minnesota a dog owner is strictly liable for any unprovoked injury caused by that dog. In other words, the dog doesn't get one free bite. Cats, on the other hand, actually do get a free bite in the sense that in order for a homeowner to be liable for a cat bite the injured person would typically have to be able to prove that the owner knew or should have known of the cat's propensity to bite people and failed to do anything about it. There is an exception to that rule, and that is if the city where the bite took place has a city ordinance requiring cats to be on leashes if they are off the property of the cat owner. In my client's case, fortunately, we were able to find such an ordinance. I say "fortunately" because at this point we have no evidence that this cat, although regularly allowed to roam the neighborhood, had ever bitten anyone before. The fact that Coon Rapids has a leash rule requiring any cat off the property to be on a leash no longer than 6 feet will allow my client to make a recovery for her injuries against the cat owner's homeowners insurance.

And if you think that cat bites are insignificant, be aware that my client has developed a serious own infection as a result of the cat bite and will miss at least six weeks of work and just had surgery to clean out the infection last Friday. It is unknown when she will return to work. Worse yet, it is still unknown if the surgery will resolve that infection. Bites, unfortunately, are a regular source of infection, much more so than dog bites.