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What to Know About California’s Dog Bite Laws

A dog can bring love, joy and companionship, but owning a dog also comes with responsibility. No matter how much you love or trust your dog, you have an obligation as an owner to take precautions to ensure that your dog does not bite or attack another person or animal. In most dog bite or dog attack incidents, it is the dog’s owner’s failure to take reasonable precautions that causes things to go bad. And, unfortunately, that failure can result in very serious injuries to another person.

In fact,  one out of every five dog bites requires medical attention, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you or someone you care about has been bitten by a dog in California, Shaun Phillips ESQ. of Benchmark Injury Law hopes to help you recover the losses you have suffered.

California Laws You Should Know About Dangerous Dogs

California is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite injury claims. California Civil Code § 3342 states:

“The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place…”

This statute applies regardless of the following:

  • Former viciousness of the dog
  • The dog’s owner’s knowledge of the animal’s viciousness
  • Whether the incident occurred on the property of the owner of the dog

In other instances where the dog has a prior history of biting, or a prior history of viciousness, a claim for negligence can be made against the owner of the dog, or against the individual who had custody and control of the dog at the time of the attack. A claim for negligence differs from strict liability because a claim for negligence requires a showing of proof of (1) a duty, and (2) a breach of that duty (e.g., here, that the individual had knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite or attack people, and failed to take steps to prevent the dog from biting or attacking a person).

Under another California state law, California Civil Code § 3342.5, owners of dogs that have bitten someone in the past must take “reasonable steps” to “remove any danger” of future attacks.

If the dog has bitten a person on at least two occasions, a civil case may be filed against the owner of the dog to determine whether sufficient steps have been taken to adequately protect against future bites or attacks.. California courts may order dog owners to take steps to prevent future bites. This may include removing the dog from the area, or having the animal put down. However, these civil proceedings cannot be based on the animal’s history of biting trespassers or bites by working military or police dogs.

The Role of Animal Control and Law Enforcement in Dog Bite Events

In California, animal control and law enforcement officers are required to file a petition for a hearing if they suspect a dog is a threat to public safety. After the hearing, should the court decide that the dog could be dangerous, there may be certain conditions imposed upon the owner of the dog, which can include:

  • Keeping the dog inside, or
  • Maintaining the dog within a fenced area or
  • Requiring that the dog be on a secured leash under the control of a responsible adult regardless of whether the dog is upon the owner’s property.

If animal control finds that the dog poses a significant danger to the public, they may have the animal euthanized, and the court may prohibit the owner from owning another dog for up to three years.

Pursue a Personal Injury Claim for a Dog Bite with an Experienced California Attorney

After being attacked by a dog, you may be suffering from severe or life-altering injuries and feel unsure of where to turn next. At Benchmark Injury Law, we understand how daunting the idea of starting the claims process may feel, but recovering losses for the harm you have suffered in a dog attack is essential. Our legal team of personal injury lawyers and case managers uses a unique, value-based approach to develop strong relationships and prioritize your needs so we can deliver the best possible result for your injury claim.

With Benchmark Injury Law, you know you will have a trusted adviser on your side who has YOUR best interests in mind. For a free, confidential review of your situation, call our office at (949) 504-9031 or complete our contact form.

We Care. We Fight. We Succeed.

Have you been injured? We can help.