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When owners of an attacking dog are liable

Dogs may be a human’s best friend, but we can never forget that a wild animal lives within. The state of California recognizes that dogs will never leave our sides but may occasionally pose a threat if they are ill-trained, unrestrained or called to a primal moment by circumstance.

California dog owners are strictly liable for bite-related injuries caused by dogs they own or are otherwise responsible. The owners of dogs that cause nonbite injuries are only liable for claims of negligence. This would require proof that the owner failed to use reasonable care.

Liability is a matter of civil law, so most injuries caused by dogs do not cause criminal charges. But a felony charge could be possible if an owner failed to properly secure a dog either known to be vicious or trained to attack. A serious injury or death could result from such an incident.

One of the few exceptions to liability for dog bites is animals that are or accompany law enforcement officers. If a dog was defending itself or others during a harassing or provoking act by the bite victim, or during an investigation or lawful arrest, the victim cannot claim damages from these incidents and related injuries.

The time limit for filing claims against the owners of dogs that injured others with a bite or attack is generally two years in the state of California. An attorney may help dog bite victims determine the extent of an owner’s liability and figure out the best way forward.

Source: FindLaw, “California Dog Bite Laws,” accessed Nov. 24, 2017