Understanding Strict Liability: California’s Dog Bite Laws Explained

Very simply speaking, states take two different approaches to dog bite laws: strict liability, and the one bite rule. Under the one bite rule, dog owners are not held responsible for the actions of their pet unless the animal has a history of aggressive or harmful behavior. Under strict liability, a dog’s owner is always responsible for his or her pet’s actions, regardless of whether the dog has ever harmed another person or animal.

California is a strict liability state: it doesn’t matter if the dog has never bitten another person before. It doesn’t matter if the dog bite victim is on private property at the time of the attack. It doesn’t matter if owner didn’t know the dog was dangerous; the owner is generally responsible for damages.

Here are a few other California dog bite laws that are important for all pet owners and dog attack victims to know:

  • Military and police dogs that work with authorities to pursue a suspect or investigate a crime are often immune from dog bite lawsuits; though, there are limited exceptions.
  • If your dog has bitten a human, you are responsible for preventing that dog from attacking again. You can do this by things such as installing a fence, muzzling your dog, or keeping your dog away from others.
  • After your dog has attacked two people in separate incidents, anyone, including the district attorney, may take action to prevent a third dog bite case. An investigation may find that the dog needs to be removed from the owner or destroyed.
  • If a dog has been trained to fight, bite, attack, or kill, a person can take action to prevent harm by removing the pet from the owner or destroying the pet.
  • If the dog bit a person who presumed a risk of injury—such as a person who provoked the dog—then the dog’s owner may not be liable for the attack.
  • A dog may bite or attack a trespasser on private property without the owner of the pet facing the consequences mentioned above.

While strict liability dog bite law seems somewhat straightforward, there are complexities and exceptions to the rule. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in California, it is important to have your case reviewed by an experienced CA dog bite attorney so you can fully understand the implications of the attack and your best legal options. Call Russell & Lazarus at (949) 851-0222 to schedule a free case review today.

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