4 Things You Should Know about California Dog Attack Laws

There are a number of laws regarding dogs and their misbehavior. Making matters more complicated for dog owners has been the march of stricter laws at the local, state, and federal level, leaving them wondering what rules now apply. Here are four things you should know about California dog attack laws, whether or not you own a dog.

Royalty Free Photo

Dog Owners Have Strict Liability

California has strict liability statutes. A dog owner is legally liable for a dog bite if someone was bitten in a public place, or if they were lawfully in a private place. A dog bite, in this case, may or may not break the skin. This means that you’re not liable for your dog biting a trespasser, but you are liable if your dog bites a guest or attacks someone on a public sidewalk.

The owner is also liable if the dog bites someone carrying out a legal duty that gave them permission to be on the property. This makes an owner liable for their dog biting a delivery or mail person for instance, or anyone who has to set foot on the property for any reason.

You Can Literally Pay for Negligence

If you don’t exercise reasonable care to control your dog, you could be sued even if your dog didn’t bite someone. For example, someone injured while trying to escape a dog they were afraid would bite them could sue you for medical bills if they can demonstrate they were trying to avoid the dog. If your dog attacked a bicycle wheel and caused someone to fall off, you could be sued for their injuries even though the dog didn’t bite the person. If the dog wasn’t controlled and jumped on someone, scratching them, the owner could likewise be sued for any associated medical bills. On top of this, the victim can sue for emotional distress caused by the injury.

The Rules Regarding Dangerous Dogs

California maintains separate legal procedures for pets that are considered dangerous. A dog is considered dangerous if the animal’s behavior drove people to defend themselves or if the dog attacked another domestic animal in at least two separate incidents off the owner’s property within three years.

Animal control and law enforcement officers can file petitions when they suspect the dog is a threat. If the courts decide the dog is dangerous or vicious, the owner has to meet strict rules. The dog will either need to be kept indoors, outside on a secure leash or within a fenced-in yard that keeps children out and the animal in at all times. You can be fined for violating any of these conditions.

You Can Be Hit with Civil and Criminal Penalties for the Same Event

Los Angeles dog attack laws leave dog owners at risk of criminal charges after their animals injure other people. The relative laws apply if the dog is known to be mischievous but not controlled and then injured or killed someone while roaming. If someone was injured, it is a misdemeanor or felony. If someone is killed, it is a felony. If charged with a crime related to a dog attack, the owner can still be sued for damages within two years of the injury.


Dog owners in California need to take extreme caution with their dogs. It’s in their responsibility to control their dog’s behavior. Doing so will reduce the chances for incidents and litigation.

More to Read: