California regards ownership of domesticated animals differently than it does wild animals. In most cases, the owner of the animal is held responsible and must take reasonable precautions to keep the public safe from their animals. A great example of this is the California Leash Law, which regulates the owner's responsibility for their dog while in public. Generally, the owner won’t be held liable for unforeseen circumstances unless they were negligent.
By virtue, wild animals are unpredictable and uncontrollable. So is a business responsible for a wild animal attack? If a business owns a wild animal, however, they are held under stricter liability and almost always will be held responsible for their animal’s actions.
California law handles each case differently, but expects that property owners do their due diligence when it comes to public safety. There are exemptions, however, depending on the creature.
When it comes to insect bites, case law suggests: a property owner “does not have a duty to protect or prevent bites from harmful insects where: (1) it is not generally known that the specific insect is indigenous to the area; (2) the homeowner has no knowledge that a specifically harmful insect is prevalent in the area where his residence is located; (3) the homeowner has on no occasion seen the specific type of harmful insect either outside or inside his home; and (4) neither the homeowner nor the injured guest has seen the specific insect that bit the guest either before or after the bite occurred.”
When a wild animal attack happens in a public space, such as a public park, the local government or property owner can be held liable for injuries. Although the California Tort Claims Act relinquishes liability for injuries caused by “natural conditions” or “unimproved public property”. Wild animals are considered natural conditions. A state or property owner can be held liable if:
- The owner took action to increase the risk of harm by a wild animal.
- The owner is aware that a special animal is posing a risk and fails to take action to protect the public.