Dog Bite Law in California: Everything You Need to Know


First things first. You should know that California is often referred to as the number one destination for food-loving tourists in America. This is probably so because the great-to-eat Cobb Salad was invented there. California houses at least 39.5 Million humans within its 163,996 square meters. Other distinctive features include facts that it houses some of the world’s most significant trees, such as the old Bristlecone pine, the massive Giant Sequoia band the tall Coast Redwood. It is also known to be America’s richest farming region. It doesn’t end there, for there many more characteristics that make this state stand out.

One more thing: California has laws on Dog-bites, funny but true. This piece seeks to cover everything you need to know on California Dog-Bite Laws. So, if you’re seeking to make California your destination, you’d need to understand its laws on claims for Dog-bite. Furthermore, if you’re going to be owning a Dog, you’d need to expend your energy on understanding these laws.

To help you understand these laws, I have sectioned these explanations into six categories, namely;

  1. Liability on careless Dog Owners: California’s laws do not help victims who were injured by Dogs that didn’t bite them, that it, if the victim’s injuries are in relation to a Dog as in the case of a Dog chase, or accidents caused by stray dogs, these laws would not apply. The only condition that this law would apply in such a case is if the victim can as well prove that the Dog-owner(s) did not take measures to control the Dogs. Such control measures may include using a strap on its neck to restrain its superfluous movements or keeping it caged or in a fenced yard. When otherwise, these laws will not apply.
  2. Criminal and Civil Liability: According to (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 335.1), even though criminal charges are to be filed in connection with a dog bite, the victim may go ahead and sue the Dog-owner for damages incurred on him (her), as far as the civil suit is filed within two years sequel to the injury. However, in some significant circumstances, this time may be extended.
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  • Time-based deadlines are exclusive to the cases filed. 

This time-based limitation is known as the Statute of limitations. A Statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in a civil court after suffering a sort of damage. As earlier stated, the deadline range for this lawsuit is typically two years; however, in some distinct cases, it may be extended to six years after the injury. The limit may be placed on paused (that is the normal two years limit) in cases where the Dog-owner leaves the state after the incident occurs. This pause will be deflected when the owner comes back to the state,


  • if the deadline is set already and a suit is filed by the victim after the set deadline, the Dog-owner may request that the court dismisses the case. This request will most certainly fall through, except there is some exception that extends the deadline. Even before proceeding on this lawsuit journey, you must get an experienced personal injury lawyer because (s)he alone would be able to determine if your suit may be considered if after missing the deadline. Perhaps you will miss the deadline because you wanted to settle thing with the Dog-owner instead of proceeding to the court, ensure you do this settlement ample time before the set deadline, else once the deadline slides without an exception to consider, you will not get a legal remedy for your injuries and damages.


  • Some defenses considered in Dog-lawsuits:


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Some defenses may be considered by the court, in some suits. Some Dog-owners may claim that the victim was injured as a result of the voluntary risk of injury, or perhaps were trespassing during the time of occurrence of the incident. One primary defense that may see the compensation of the victim reduced would be that the victim was partly a contributor to the incident that is (s)he was partially at fault (California’s “comparative negligence” rule).


  1. Taking up a Lawyer As a Dog-owner: As earlier opined, you should take up an experienced Attorney if you are facing charges as regards Dog-lawsuit. If you are being sued for injuries caused by your Dog, it is best you employ the services of a personal injury lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer will as well help protect your rights if you are facing criminal charges over a Dog-bite or related injuries. As well, the services of a Civil complaint lawyer should be considered if you are facing civil complaints about a dangerous Dog or perhaps some court order to destroy your ‘dangerous’ pet.
  2. Laws on Dangerous Dogs: Pets are common in this Dogs. However, when this pet goes hay-wire, it could be termed a “Dangerous” animal. Regardless of the animal’s history, California’s laws apply to Dog-bites. In spite of this law, another law makes Dog-owners responsible for taking strict measures or perhaps corrective steps to forestall future occurrences, especially when their Dogs have caused a scene before.


  • To (Cal. Civil Code 3342.5), anybody is fit to file a lawsuit against a Dog that has bitten someone twice in the past or a trained Dog that has caused a serious injury during an attack in the past. This is done in order to prevent future attacks. The court may go on to order that the owner destroys the Dog or takes the Dog away from such vicinity. It is important to note that these Civil proceedings will note based on bites by working military or police dogs, neither on a Dog’s history of biting trespassers.


  • Dog is seen as “Dangerous” if it has bitten someone severely without initial provocation from the victim or if it has killed or injured a domestic animal twice in three year or while away from its owner’s vicinity, it has made people to defend themselves from its harsh behaviors, in at least two separate incidents in the last three years. The law would, therefore, consider the Dog 
  • if the Dog repeats harmful behaviors over time, or if the court has in time past termed the Dog dangerous without the owner meeting legal conditions (Cal. Food & Agric. Code 31601 – 31683).


  • It is pertinent to note that Dog owners are as well liable to face criminal charges if the Dog kills someone while at large, and the owner knew of its vicious behaviors (Cal. Penal Code 399). This is in sync with the fact that California has a different legal proceeding for controlling dangerous dogs. In fact, the Law Enforcement Agency can file a petition against a suspected dangerous Dog.


  • Liability for Bites: When victims sue erring Dog-owners for compensation for damages, they can’t argue that they took preventive measures or that they weren’t aware that their Dogs were violent. The Dog-owner is liable if the victim was in a lawfully-private or public place when the incident occurred, or if the injured person was bitten. 

Dr. Jason Williams

Dr. Jason Williams has served the veterinary field for over 26 years. After graduating from the Prestigious University of California--Davis. He has practiced in both the large and small animal sectors. His experience with Animals is immeasurable. Dr. Jason has found pleasure helping pet owners find the best information they'll ever need for their pets(companion). He currently has 20 pets and is dedicated to sharing from his wealth of experience to pet owners all over the world.

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