Learn when California dog owners could be legally responsible for bites and other injuries caused by their pets.
Whether you own a dog in California or have a claim for a frump bite or other wound, you ‘ll want to understand the state ‘s laws on owners ‘ civil and criminal liability when their animals hurt person or have been aggressive. Read on for the details .
When Dog Owners Are Strictly Liable for Bites
California is one of the states with “ rigid liability ” dog-bite laws that make pet owners responsible for most dog-bite injuries. When the victims action to get compensation for their damages, it does n’t matter whether the owners knew their dogs had ever bitten person earlier. That means they ca n’t argue that they did n’t know their dogs could be dangerous, or that they took wish to prevent the animals from hurting person .
The law has some limits, however. The owner is strictly apt only if the hurt person :
Reading: California Dog-Bite Laws
- was bitten, and
- was either in a public place or “lawfully in a private place” (including the dog owner’s property) when the bite happened.
For the function of the legislative act, anyone who ‘s carrying out a legal duty ( like delivering mail ) is legally on private property .
Injured people ca n’t sue under this legislative act if they were bitten by police or military dogs that were either doing law enforcement work or defending person. however, this exception does n’t apply to victims who were n’t suspected of participating in the alleged crime. That means that a crime victim may sue a city after being bitten by a police frump. ( Cal. Civil Code § 3342 ( 2020 ) ; City of Huntington Beach v. City of Westminster, 57 Cal.App.4th 220 ( Cal. App. 4th Dist. 1997 ). )
California courts have held that owners are broadly exempt from liability if their dogs bite veterinarians or vet assistants during discussion. ( Priebe v. Nelson, 39 Cal.4th 1112 ( Cal. Sup. Ct. 2006 ). )
What Counts as a “Bite” Under California’s Dog-Bite Law?
If a andiron grab person with its teeth but does n’t break the skin, that could still count as a pungency. In a case where a actor fell from his ladder after a pawl closed its jaw on his pants, the court held that the animal ‘s owner was liable for the injuries under department 3342 ( Johnson v. McMahan, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 173 ( Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1998 ) ) .
When Dog Owners Are Careless
California ‘s hard-and-fast indebtedness codified wo n’t help victims who were injured by dogs that did n’t bite them—for exemplify, when the dogs attacked their bicycle wheel or chased them on a motorbike and caused an accident. But that does n’t necessarily mean they have no other options. Injured people may able to receive compensation if they can prove that their injuries resulted from the dog owners ‘ negligence. For exemplar, suppose a pawl rise on a child who ‘s playing on the sidewalk and scratches the child ‘s eye. If the victim ‘s parents action, they must prove that the owner did n’t use reasonable care to control the dog, such as by keeping it on a three or in a fenced-in yard .
California’s Laws on Dangerous Dogs
While California ‘s nonindulgent liability dog-bite codified applies careless of the animal ‘s history, another country law makes owners responsible for taking “ reasonable steps ” needed to “ remove any danger ” of future attacks when their dogs have bitten person in the past. Anyone can file a civil case against the owner of a pawl who has bitten a human doubly ( in divide incidents ) or the owner of a train attack andiron who has seriously injured person with flush a individual sting. The court may club the owner to take steps to prevent future attacks, including removing the pawl from the area or having it destroy. These civil proceedings ca n’t be based on a dog ‘s history of biting trespassers, or on bites by working patrol or military dogs. ( Cal. Civil Code § 3342.5 ( 2020 ). )
California besides has a disjoined legal procedure for controlling dangerous dogs. Animal control or law enforcement officers must file a request for a hear when they suspect a pawl is a terror. ( That suspicion may be based on a sworn charge from a penis of the public. ) If the court decides after the hear that the animal is potentially dangerous, the frump must be kept indoors, in a wall cubic yard that will keep the animal in and children out, or on a secure leash controlled by a responsible adult. Animal see may destroy a poisonous dog if the court finds that the animal poses a significant threat to the public. The court may besides prohibit the owner from having any dog for up to three years. If a condemnable dog is not destroyed, the court must impose conditions on controlling the animal to protect the public. Owners or keepers of dangerous or barbarous dogs will be fined for any violations of these restrictions.
A dog is considered potentially dangerous if it has :
- forced people to defend themselves from unprovoked, aggressive behavior (while away from the owners’ property) in at least two separate incidents during the past three years
- bitten someone without being provoked, resulting in an injury that isn’t severe; or
- killed or injured a domestic animal without provocation twice in the last three years.
The law considers a frump poisonous if :
- the animal aggressively injured or killed someone without being provoked, or
- a court already determined that it was potentially dangerous and the dog repeated the dangerous behavior or the animal’s owner or keeper didn’t meet the legal conditions .
( Cal. Food & Agric. Code §§ 31601-31683 ( 2020 ). )
Both Criminal and Civil Liability for Dog Bites?
Anyone who owns or has control over a andiron may besides face criminal charges when the animal injures person while roaming at large, but entirely if the owner or keeper knew the chase was prone to “ arch ” behavior but did n’t keep it under restraint. The crime is a felony if the victim was killed and a “ wobbler ” ( either a misdemeanor or felony ) if the victim was only hurt. ( Cal. Penal Code § 399 ( 2020 ). )
even if criminal charges are filed in connection with a cad pungency, the hurt person may inactive sue the owner for damages, angstrom long as the civil courtship is filed within two years after the injury ( Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1 ( 2020 ) ). The time period might be extended in some circumstances. ( For details, see our article on when to sue for a dog bite. )
Defenses in Dog-Bite Lawsuits
Dog owners may have one or more legal defenses in civil lawsuits over injuries caused by their animals. For example, they might argue that the victims :
- were trespassing at the time of the injury
- were partly at fault for the incident (which would reduce any compensation they receive under California’s “comparative negligence” rule), or
- voluntarily took a risk of injury.
A different set of defenses may apply in condemnable charges resulting from frump bites.
Speaking with a Lawyer
If person is suing you over a pawl bite or early wound that your dog purportedly caused—or if you are considering suing after being hurt by person else ‘s dog—you should consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer. An lawyer experienced in this area can explain how California ‘s law applies to your position and what defenses you might have if you ‘re the defendant. If you ‘re dealing with a civil complaint over a dangerous chase or a court order to destroy your darling, you might want to consult with an animal law lawyer. And finally, a criminal refutation lawyer can help protect your rights if you ‘re facing criminal charges over a chase bite or other injury .
Because states can change their laws at any time, it ‘s always a good estimate to check the current California statutes using this search tool .