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Emotional support animals may also attack

Millions of Californians welcome animals into their homes as beloved family members. Although it is easy to see dogs, cats and other beasts as part of our social lives, animals still operate on their own terms at times of confusion or defensiveness.

Animals are often restricted to private property and most dogs require leashes in public spaces or during transport. The increasing trend of service animals has caused concern among many travelers and business owners who feel endangered by these animals.

There were two reported dog attack on U.S. airlines in 2017, both serious bites to the face of the victim. Both dogs were “emotional support animals,” or ESAs, a designation that is often loosely applied. While most service animals that assist blind or disabled people require lengthy training and testing, ESAs do not often qualify under such strict guidelines.

A Los Angeles man’s city-designated emotional support dog attacked another dog in an outdoor restaurant, resulting in $14,000 of veterinary care and injuries to two people who tried to end the fight. Federal and state law recognize animals as emotional support companions but designate no training or safety requirements for them.

California law treats ESAs as other domesticated animals, meaning that their owners or caretakers are liable for injuries caused by the animal if they are negligent or aggressive in their treatment of the animal. Since the Golden State has a “first-bite” law, a precedent is not required to hold a dog and its owner responsible.

If a victim of an animal attack has suffered serious injury, he or she may have a case for financial damages to cover medical expenses and other costs. A lawyer may assist victims and their families in building and filing a lawsuit to this end.

Source: City Watch, “Emotional Support Animal or “Fake” Service Dog Attacks – You Could Be a Victim,” Phyllis M. Daugherty, April 02, 2018

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