dog bite laws california

California’s Hard Line Stance on Dog Bites

dog bite laws california

You love your dog and there’s no doubt in your mind that they love you. While your dog might normally be the happiest, friendliest, most laid back animal you’ve ever encountered, at the end of the day, they’re still a dog, and at the end of the day, that means they could bite someone.

Why Dog’s Bite

There are a few different reasons why a dog that’s never shown any sign of aggression might suddenly bite a house guest. These reasons include:

  • They feel threatened
  • They’re being harassed by the house guest
  • They’re in pain
  • They’re startled

California’s Stance on Dog Bites

While most states have a one free bite policy when it comes to dogs, California doesn’t. What this means is that if your beloved pet bites someone, no matter what the reason may be, the victim can file a lawsuit against you.

The good news is that there are some limitations. For example, a person can’t file a dog bite lawsuit if they weren’t actually bitten by your dog, even if your dog acted like they wanted to bite. It also makes a difference if the person was unlawfully on your private property.

Don’t assume that just because your dog didn’t break the skin when they bit someone, that it doesn’t count as a dog bite. It still does. There was even a case where a person was injured after they fell from a ladder. Since it was determined that the reason the victim fell was a dog biting their pants, the owners were required to pay the legal bills.

What Does Lawfully on Property Mean

Some dog owners have gotten confused by the idea of someone being on their property lawfully. What the term means is that if someone has a legal reason to be on your private property. In the case of delivery drivers, lawyers with legal papers, and the police who have a warrant, they have a legal reason for being there, which means that if they’re bitten by your dog, you’re responsible. The same is true for anyone you invite onto your property. What this boils down to is that the only ones who can’t sue you if your dog bites them is a person who is illegally trespassing on the property.

As much as you love your dog, when anyone is on your property, its in your best financial interest to keep the dog on a leash, reducing the odds of anyone getting bit.

what happens when your dog bites

What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone?

what happens when your dog bites

Just about everyone enjoys having a bit of companionship. One of the great ways to do this is by acquiring a pet. However, owning a pet isn’t easy. As a pet owner, a person is responsible for keeping the animal alive, safe, and in healthy condition. It is a big responsibility that is not meant for everyone. Some animals, such as dogs, are more work than others.

Aside from simply ensuring that a dog is well cared for, a dog owner needs to also make sure that their animal does not harm another individual. The state of California has several laws about dogs that an owner needs to be aware of. Some of the more prominent ones revolve around the fact that if the owner isn’t careful, they could end up in some serious legal trouble. That is something that nobody wants.

Dog Bites

Dogs are often friendly creatures who just want to make friends. Sometimes they get a bit too excited and take things a little too far. When this happens, there is a possibility that someone get hurt. Dog bites can hurt quite a bit, and nobody wants to experience that kind of pain. Every year, an estimated 850,000 people are bitten big dogs hard enough to warrant going to the hospital. Of those hundreds of thousands of people, 350,000 are sent to emergency rooms. This is why the state of California has laws set in place to protect victims of dog bites.

California’s Strict Liability Laws

In some states, a dog owner is only liable when their dog bites someone if they knew the dog had a bad temperament or had a history of biting people in the past. In these instances, the dog owner knew the risk of letting their dog near people, and still someone got hurt.

California is not one of those states.

The state of California is known as a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite laws. What this means is that a dog owner is always responsible for injuries caused by their dog biting someone. This basically means that a dog owner needs to keep a close eye on their dog, regardless of the creature’s temperament.

In California, if a dog bites another person, or even another animal, the owner is liable for the damages. This means that the victim of the dog bite could rightfully sue the dog owner for legal compensation. This can very easily amount to thousands of dollars, which is why it is so important for an owner to keep an eye on their pet and take care to ensure it stays in its yard.

The Exception to the Bite Law

The exception to California’s dog biting laws occurs when a dog bites someone that is trespassing. This is seen either as the dog defending its owner’s territory, or a person breaking into a secured area where a possibly dangerous animal may be held. In both instances, the owner will not get in trouble with the law. Instead, the bite victim will likely be charged with trespassing charges, all the while having to deal with what could be a very painful wound.

What about Dangerous Dogs?

The state of California also has laws against dogs that are considered potentially dangerous or vicious. While these two terms are similar to one another, the state regards them as two separate descriptions, with vicious being a step up from potentially dangerous.

A potentially dangerous dog is one that:

  • Forced a person to defend themselves from aggressive behaviors of the animal.
  • Bit someone without being provoked.
  • Killed or harmed a domesticated animal twice in the last three years.

A vicious dog is one that:

  • Killed or injured a person without being provoked.
  • Was deemed dangerous by a court and either the owner failed to take reasonable precautions or the dog repeated the dangerous behavior.

An owner of a dangerous dog is required by state law to take reasonable steps to ensure that another dog bite incident does not occur. Failing that, the owner could face criminal charges. If a dangerous dog bites and injures another person, the owner could face either misdemeanor or felony charges. If the dog kills someone, the owner will face felony charges.

It Is a Lot of Responsibility

Owning a dog is not for everyone. Aside from their more demanding and needy nature, dogs also have the potential to cause some serious harm to individuals. If a dog does bite someone in the state of California, then the owner is liable and could even face criminal charges. If a person is looking to get a dog, they need to make sure they are ready to handle all of the legal responsibilities that come from owning one.

dog leach laws california

California’s Attitude Towards Leashes and Dogs

dog leach laws california

The issue of leashes is a sensitive subject for many dog owners. Some feel that if their dog is well trained, they shouldn’t be required to keep their dog on a leash. Other’s feel that whenever a dog isn’t on the owner’s private property, the animal should be leashed.

The State of California doesn’t have a formal opinion on the topic. Officially, the state doesn’t have any laws that state dogs have to be on a leash. However, before unclipping your leash from your dog’s collar, you need to check with the local government. There are several county, city, and townships that do have very strict rules regarding leashes and dogs. Violating the local rules can land you and your pet in serious trouble.

A perfect example of this is Sacramento County. They have very strict leash ordinances. The only time a dog can legally be off leash is when they have been brought to one of the county’s “off-leash” dog parks or on the owner’s property. The City of Sacramento also has its own set of leash laws.

Don’t assume that just because your dog is on a leash, that you don’t have to worry about getting into any legal trouble. Sacramento insists that the leash be a maximum of six feet long (this means that if you have your dog on an extendable leash, law enforcement officer could write a ticket) and that the dog be under control at all times.

Sacramento County uses Code 9.36.061 (d) when dealing with dog owners who let their dogs run free.

The penalty for having your dog off leash when you’re in an town or county that has leash laws depends on where you are. In most places, you, as the dog owner, will be issued a ticket and a fine. If you don’t pay the fine, the court could opt to file a bench warrant for your arrest, which means that not only will you be arrested if you’re ever stopped by the police (or get caught with your dog off-leash a second time) and have a criminal record.

If your dog bites or otherwise injures someone while they are off leash, you’ll not only be required to pay for the off-leash ticket, you will also be responsible for the injured parties medical bills and could face losing your dog forever.

If you aren’t clear about what the laws are in your county/city, it’s best to keep your pet on a leash until you speak to either a police officer or a court official who is familiar with the local laws and how they pertain to your dog.

dog bite laws california

How California Responds When Your Dog Bites Someone

dog bite laws california

Owning a dog is wonderful, but as a California resident, you need to understand that you are responsible for your dog’s actions, especially if your dog bites someone hard enough to cause an injury.

California’s Strict Liability Laws Regarding Dog Bites

The State of California is one of the few states that enforces “strict liability” laws. This means that no matter what triggered your pet’s behavior, you’re going to be the one blamed for the dog bit injury. The person your dog bit is not only entitled to sue you, but will most likely win a sizeable settlement that covers both their medical bills and their emotional trauma.

Because California has “strict liability” laws you can’t expect to tell a judge that your dog has never behaved that way, never shown any signs of being aggressive, or that the person it bit was antagonizing it and expect to get out of the lawsuit.

The only real exception is if someone is unlawfully on your property when they were bit. Postal workers, delivery people, and friends you’ve invited over are considered lawfully on your property. Trespassers are on your property unlawfully.

What’s Considered a Bite

Just because your dog didn’t break someone’s skin, it doesn’t mean the bit didn’t happen. The dog doesn’t even have to have taken hold of the person to be considered a biter. There have been instances where the dog grabbed onto a person’s clothing, causing them to fall or trip, the resulting injuries were still considered dog bite related, and the owner was forced to pay the resulting medical bills.

Unlike other states that allow a dog to have one free bite, California’s courts don’t care about the animal’s history. However, once your dog has bitten someone, the California judicial system can step in and tell you want you can and can’t do with your dog. California law makers believe that as the owner of a dog who now has a history of biting, you’re obligated to take steps to ensure that the dog never attacks someone else. In some instances, the court has told the owner of a dog that’s bitten someone that they had to find a new location for the dog, or that the dog must be put to sleep.

The best way to ensure that you and your dog have a long and happy future together that doesn’t include a long and costly court trial is by keeping your dog leashed and under control whenever you’re both in public, making sure it’s properly socialized, and really paying attention to it’s body language when someone approaches your dog.


Dog Bite Laws in California


Nobody likes to get hurt, especially when someone else could have and should have taken measures to prevent the incident from happening. On such kind of incident is dog bites. There is not a single person alive who would want to get bitten by a dog.

The state of California has strict liability laws when it comes to dog bites. What this means is, in most instances, the dog owner is liable if their dog bites someone. This means that the person who was bit has the right to seek legal compensation from the animal’s owner.

Some states limit when a dog owner is liable for their dog biting someone. For instance, some states only hold the owner liable if the dog has proven to be violent or vicious in the past. However, that is not the case in the state of California. Regardless of whether or not the dog has bitten someone in the past, the owner is still liable for anyone their dog injures by biting. The only time a person is not liable for their dog biting someone is if the person who was bit was trespassing on the owner’s private property.

Due to this fact, it is important for dog owners to keep their pets safe in their home or yard. If the dog gets out and bites someone, that person has the legal right to seek legal compensation from the dog’s owner.