Millions of people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States. Most of the bites aren't serious, but many do result in time lost from work, medical bills, and suffering. Children (especially boys) tend to receive a disproportionate share of the bites.
The law responds to this phenomenon in different ways. First, all states have laws that make dog owners responsible, under certain circumstance, for injuries and damage their animals cause. Many states follow an old principle, rather misleadingly called the "one free bite" rule. Broadly stated, this rule says that if a dog injures someone, the dog's owners aren't legally responsible until they had reason to know that dog might cause that kind of injury. In contrast, other states have laws on the books (dog-bite statutes) that make owners liable no matter what they knew or didn't know about the dog's temperament.