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My 4-year-old daughter was playing with her friends at a Cedar Rapids playground. The children were in the sandbox when a man walked through the play area with a fluffy white dog. The preschoolers and toddlers were excited. They ran towards the dog. The dog started barking and bit one of the children. The man said he was not responsible because the dog was wearing a yellow ribbon and the children should have known not to approach it. What does the yellow ribbon mean? Does it remove owner liability for a dog bite?

A yellow ribbon is a symbol that a dog should be approached with caution. These dogs aren’t aggressive, but they need space because they are sick, injured, nervous, or undergoing training. It may also mean that the dog is uncomfortable around children.

The yellow ribbon is part of The Yellow Dog Project. The program was started in Canada in September 2012 and spread to 45 countries, mostly through Facebook posts. If you don’t know what a yellow ribbon means, you are not alone. The Facebook page has only 85,000 fans worldwide.

A yellow ribbon is not a waiver of responsibility. A dog wears a yellow ribbon to signify that it needs space, but this does not mean it is okay to take the dog to a highly populated area. It certainly doesn’t give an owner permission to take a potentially dangerous dog into a children’s play area.

A yellow ribbon does not make a dog bite victim responsible for the dog’s behavior. Preventing dog bites is a dog owner’s responsibility. But a yellow ribbon does mean that the owner is aware of the dog’s problems. When a dog owner puts his nervous pet in a potentially stressful situation, he is knowingly putting others at risk and is responsible for the consequences.

In Iowa, the dog owner is liable for dog bite injuries. However, it can be hard to get a dog owner to take responsibility for his pet’s actions. Hupy and Abraham can help. Call us at 888-807-2752 to schedule your free consultation.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham