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When are California dog owners responsible for bites?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2023 | Dog Bites |

A lot of people own dogs in California. There are even dog-friendly beaches throughout the state where owners are permitted to allow their pets to play. If a dog bites someone, its owner or handler may be financially responsible for damages in certain circumstances. It is also important to note, however, that there are also situations or issues that would exempt a dog owner or handler from liability when the animal bites someone or damages property. 

Understanding state laws regarding dog bites is critical for those who have suffered injuries or are considering filing a personal injury claim in civil court. Even a minor dog bite can become a serious health concern, especially if the wound becomes infected. California has strict liability laws, meaning that a dog owner is liable for damages that occur from his or her pet, which might include injuries from a bite or damage to another person’s property.  

Military dog handlers and police officers with K-9 units are not liable 

If a dog is used in military or police work and bites someone in connection with a criminal investigation, apprehension of a suspect or in self-defense, neither the government agency employing the animal nor the dog’s handler are liable for damages. Similarly, liability does not typically attach to a property owner if his or her dog injures someone who was not lawfully on the property, such as an intruder. 

The court can order removal or destruction of a dog that bites 

If a dog has bitten people on multiple occasions, the court may order its removal from the owner’s property. In some cases, the court may determine that destruction of the animal is merited to ensure public safety. Anyone in California who has suffered damages because of a dog bite and is considering filing a liability claim in civil court may benefit by consulting a personal injury.