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Dog Bite Laws in California

Regardless of whether you own a dog in California or if you have a claim for a dog bite or other injury, you’ll need to understand the state’s laws that determine when an owner is liable if their animal hurts someone. Below, we explain more about California’s laws for dog bites.

When Is an Owner Strictly Liable for a Dog Bite?

California is a state with “strict liability” laws. These laws make pet owners responsible for most bite injuries inflicted by their animals. If a pet owner is sued for damages, it doesn’t matter they were aware that their dogs had ever been vicious before. This means pet owners can’t argue that they didn’t know their animal could be dangerous, or that they tried to prevent the animal from causing injury.

There are limits to when a person is strictly liable for their pet. Owners are strictly liable for an injured party if they:

  • Were bitten by their pet
  • The injured party was in a public place or “lawfully in a private place” when the bite occurred

Under Cal. Civil Code § 3342, people can’t sue if they were bitten by police or military dogs that were performing law enforcement work or defending themselves against annoying or aggressive behavior.

California Laws for Dangerous Dogs

The state of California has laws that make owners responsible for taking “reasonable steps to remove any danger of future attacks” if their dog has previously bitten someone. Anyone can file a civil lawsuit against the owner of a dog who has bitten a human twice (in separate incidents) or the owner of a trained attack dog who has inflicted serious injury on a person. Under Cal. Civil Code § 3342.5, courts can order a dog owner to take steps to prevent future attacks, including removing the dog from the area or having the animal put to sleep.

Animal control or law enforcement officers in California can also file a petition for a hearing if they suspect a dog is a threat. If the court decides that the dog is dangerous or too vicious, the owner will have to meet certain conditions, including keeping their dog indoors, on a leash, or in a fenced yard that will keep the animal in and small children out. Owners can receive fines and other penalties for violating pet restrictions handed down by a court.

Courts consider a dog potentially dangerous if it:

  • Has behaved in an aggressive manner that forced people to defend themselves on at least 2 different occasion in the last 3 years.
  • Has bitten someone without provocation and the bite resulted in an injury that isn’t severe.
  • Has killed or inflicted injury to a domestic animal twice in the past 3 years.

Dog owners can possibly face criminal charges if their animals injure someone. If a dog kills or injures someone while it is roaming at large, and the owner knew the dog was prone to dangerous behavior but didn’t do anything to keep it under control, the owner can be charged with a criminal offense.

Have You Been Bitten by a Dog?

At Caputo and Van Der Walde – Injury & Accident Attorneys, our team of legal professionals can help you secure compensation for your dog bite injuries. We will weigh your legal options and devise a strategy that will protect your rights and interests. Our lawyers have helped hundreds of dog bite victims with their cases, and we are prepared to guide you through the legal process today.Call (800) 900-0863 to schedule your case review with our Campbell personal injury attorneys.