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While criminal laws associated with dog bite injuries vary by state, many have strict liability statutes that hold dog owners culpable for related injuries. Therefore, in a civil and criminal context, dog owners are generally responsible for any wounds their dog inflicts on another person. They may be sued by someone attacked by their canine for their injuries.

Under the criminal dog bite laws, a dog owner can be subject to criminal penalties like fines and jail time should their dog injure someone. On the other hand, the dog bite law does provide a legal defense for owners. For example, if their dog was provoked, the owner was unaware of the vicious nature of their animal, or the injured individual was trespassing on the dog owner’s property.

Liability Statutes on Dog Ownership in California

If you own a dog as a pet or for security purposes, ensure you understand your local laws concerning dog bites should your pet injure someone. Consult a dog attack lawyer who’s well-versed in all dog bite laws. Such an attorney knows the criminal elements that must be proven to hold a dog owner civilly or criminally liable for injuries inflicted by their dog. Case in point: in California, a dog owner may only be held criminally liable for a dog attack if the following criminal elements are proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The dog owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive nature and past biting attacks without provocation.
  • The dog attacked someone who was not trespassing on the dog owner’s property.
  • The dog attack resulted in injury or death to another individual.
  • The local authority designated the dog breed as dangerous, yet the owner did not follow stipulated regulations about possessing a vicious animal.

California operates under the “strict liability” law when handling dog bite cases. Section 3342 of California’s Civil Code states that a dog owner is liable for damages suffered by any person bitten by the dog while in a lawfully private or public place. This includes the dog owner’s property, regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s ferocious temperament. This means a dog owner will almost always be held legally responsible for paying damages for injuries incurred by their dog.

Premises Liability: Can Property Owners Be Liable for Injuries Caused by a Renter’s Dog?

When your dog bites somebody on your property (whether a guest or trespasser), you may be responsible for paying for their injuries. But what happens if someone else’s dog bites another person on your property? Most renters in California are dog owners who don’t have homeowner’s insurance policies to cover injuries caused by their dogs. For that reason, landlords can be liable for damages resulting from their tenants’ dogs. 

Unlike a dog owner’s liability for dog bites, a landlord is not automatically accountable should a renter’s dog bite a stranger in a lawfully public area. This signifies that a property owner’s legal responsibility for dog attacks is not a strict liability tort. Premises liability can be proven by a two-part test:

  1. A landlord had actual or circumstantial knowledge of the dog’s vicious nature.
  2. The property owner had sufficient control over the situation to prevent a dog attack. For instance, a landlord should have insisted that a tenant remove a dangerous dog from the premises.

In 1995, the Donchin v. Guerrero case went before the Court of Appeal in California. While on a walk, a woman and her dog were attacked by two Rottweilers who had escaped from a neighboring apartment. “Jane Doe” sued the dog owner and the apartment building’s landlord, alleging that both knew that the Rottweilers had dangerous propensities. To prove that the landlord and dog owner could control the issue before it occurred, Jane Doe presented sworn evidence from a neighbor and postal worker, citing that the landlord knew the dog had vicious propensities.

She also used a dog bite expert to introduce more evidence, stating that because the dogs had dangerous tendencies toward the mailman and neighbor, they would most likely act similarly toward others. To that end, the injured plaintiff could seek damages from the landlord, who was aware of the dangerous nature of his tenant’s two Rottweilers.

What Standard of Care Do Dog Owners Owe to Others?

Even though the odds of dying from a dog attack are 1 in 70,000, dog bites are common, with more than 4.5 million related cases reported annually. When someone enters your property, they do not expect to be injured because a homeowner has a duty to utilize a reasonable standard of care. It’s a property owner’s or renter’s responsibility to maintain a reasonably safe environment for anyone, guest or otherwise, entering the building.

This includes keeping animals with a vicious propensity away from visitors or putting up warning signs about dangerous dogs. Codified animal control laws exist in many local municipalities and states. For example, if a dog owner fails to keep their dog on a leash as per city code, they are strictly liable for the resulting dog bite injuries.

Stringent liability claims in civil cases imply that an injured complainant does not have to prove the defendant’s acts of negligence to recover compensation. If you have liability concerns should your dog bite another person, consider a renter, homeowner, or pet insurance policy that may be able to cover animal bite incidents on your property.

Hire an Expert California Personal Injury Lawyer at Kash Legal Today

Dog bites pose serious and potentially life-threatening problems. If your dog bit someone on your property or vice versa, you may need a Kash Legal lawyer to help you fight a lawsuit or recover damages. Dog owners can face criminal charges if, by command or inaction, they cause their dog to attack someone.

Additionally, if your dog has been declared dangerous by local laws and you failed to take reasonable action, you could be found guilty. If this describes your current situation, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced dog bite attorney. Complete our contact form or call Kash Legal at (888) 527-4128 to discuss your legal options.

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