California’s Dog Bite Laws: Strict Liability and Breed-Specific Ordinances
What Dog Breeds Are Held Strictly Liable for Dog Bites in California?
Being attacked by a dog can be extremely traumatic. The majority of dog bites come from dogs that are familiar to their victim, and they often happen when an animal is surprised or afraid. Whether the dog in question is familiar or a stray, dog bite injuries can be very painful and will usually require costly medical treatment.
Thousands of Americans experience getting bit by a dog every year. Sadly, many of these victims are children. Emergency room visits are usually necessary to prevent the spread of dangerous infections and contagious diseases. Reconstructive surgeries may also become necessary if victims have suffered deep lacerations.
Our qualified dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are experienced dog bite lawyers. We are prepared to fight for the rights of victims who have suffered as a result of a dog bite injury. Our lawyers are first rate trial attorneys who know how to recover maximum compensation for personal injury cases.
California Dog Bite Laws
With regard to California dog bite laws, under California Civil Code Section 3342, a dog owner is liable for damages suffered by anyone who was bitten by the dog regardless of if the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s dangerous condition. As long as the victim is in a public place, or lawfully on private property – including the dog owner’s property – the dog owner will be held responsible for any injuries the victim has suffered as a result of the attack. Even if the dog in question has never acted violently and its owner has no prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, the dog owner is strictly liable under California law. In other words, a dog bite victim does not have to prove that the dog owner acted negligently. This is different from the “one bite” rule followed by several other states where a dog bite victim must prove that because of a previous biting incident, the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous.
Breed-Specific Ordinances in California
Most states, California included, have breed-specific laws for dogs. These breed-specific laws are primarily targeted at pitbulls and other breeds included in the pitbull line, as well as other dogs mixed with pitbull blood.
There have been 392 deaths in the United States throughout the past 12 years as a result of dog attacks. Approximately 65 percent of these deaths were caused by pitbulls. However, combining both pitbull and rottweiler numbers raises the figure to 76 percent. When you add dog breeds that are considered as “cousins” of pitbulls and rottweilers, the figure rises to nearly 90 percent of all deaths caused by breed-specific dogs.
There are many breeds cited on breed-specific ordinances. They include (but are not limited to):
- American Pit Bull Terriers
- American Staffordshire Terriers
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
- And all dogs with the same blood heritage of bull-baiting as featured in the United Kennel Club
The history of the pitbull is violent and filled with grotesque imagery. Pitbulls were bred to bait and take down bulls that were chained up or placed inside a hole in the ground. The pitbull was specifically bred and trained to viciously attack the bull. Bull-baiting didn’t actually begin as a bloody pastime. It was once believed that bull-baiting would tenderize the bull’s tough meat for consumption. For a long time, it was illegal to kill a bull that hadn’t been baited by dogs. Over time, public perception changed and a collective demand to end bull-baiting grew in popularity.
Dog lovers often protest that people are quick to misjudge the pitbull. But facts show that the pitbull, and other related dogs, are involved in more serious dog attacks than any other breed.
California doesn’t specifically target the pitbull over any other breed, but there are ordinances pertaining to the pitbull. According to Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) ordinances, a pitbull over four months old, and all dogs on the BSL, must be licensed. All pitbulls, along with any other dogs on the BSL, must also be spayed or neutered. The state of California takes this effort so seriously that $50 vouchers are available for low income families or any families with financial hardships to meet this requirement.
There is evidence that breed-specific laws are working. The number of pitbulls abandoned in animal shelters has dropped. This means that fewer animals are being euthanized. There are less pitbull mixes wandering the streets, and people are becoming more responsible dog owners.
An experienced dog bite attorney can help dog bite victims recover the compensation they deserve as a result of their injuries. Dog bite victims may be entitled to receive compensation for the following:
- Past and Future Medical Expenses
- Loss of Past and Future Income
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Emotional Distress
- Loss of Consortium
Contact Us to Find Out How We Can Help
If you have sustained injuries as a result of a dog bite, our expert dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
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