Generally, yes, under California's dog bite statute, dog owners are absolutely responsible for any injuries caused when their dogs bite, even if the dog in question has never been violent before.
Even though California has many laws - and several court opinions - that say owners of dangerous dogs may be criminally liable if their dogs attack or bite others, the truth of the matter is that dog owners rarely face criminal charges.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites each year in the United States. While that number is certainly staggering, another equally concerning statistic reported by the ASPCA is that roughly half of all dog-bite victims that seek medical attention are actually children.
Even though most people would like to believe their dogs would never bite an innocent person, the truth of the matter is dog attacks occur all the time - and often involve dogs that have never shown signs of violence.
In honor of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs May 17-23, the United States Postal Service (USPS) recently released a list of the top 30 cities for dog attacks among postal workers and letter carriers. In total, 5,767 postal employees were involved in dog attacks last year.
While dog bites are truly tragic no matter the victim, they are especially devastating when they involve children. After all, small children typically have little defense when fighting off a dog attack. With summer vacation quickly approaching for San Diego elementary students, parents need to be even more on guard when their children are playing outside, or playing anywhere near a dog for that matter.
A 4 year old boy who sustained severe dog bites has a lot to be thankful for, after a bystander's heroic act of bravery fended off the dog thereby preventing further injury to the boy. The remarkable part of the story is the brave bystander being a tabby cat. The cat, named Tara, was captured on security camera on May 13 when she pounced on a dog that attacked her 4-year-old owner Jeremy Triantafilo. The video, which has garnered 21 million views on YouTube, shows the dog biting and attempting to drag the boy. Within seconds, Tara leapt onto the dog, and in a flurry of hair and nails chased the canine away.
In a recent Florida dog bite case, a jury awarded a man more than $7 million to compensate him for injuries and future medical expenses associated with the dog bites he suffered back in 2011. The man sustained severe epidermal injuries and permanent back injuries as he fought to escape from three aggressive dogs owned by his neighbors.
A debate among state lawmakers highlighted some of the key issues in determining who is the responsible party when a dog bites a human. State laws on dog bite liability vary widely across the country, reflecting different viewpoints on the duties of a dog owner. On one side are those who support what is essentially strict liability for dog owners - they must be held responsible no matter the circumstances when their dog bites another person. Strict liability means there is only one question - did the dog bite the human? If the answer is yes the owner is held responsible.
The threat of dog bites is a reality for San Diegans. We are blessed with great weather. A natural accompaniment to the warmer climate is many opportunities for outdoor activity. For dog owners this means taking the dog for a walk. According to San Diego County Animal Control, San Diego's 3.2 million residents share our County with more than 1 million pets and sheltered animals. Given the facts, it's worthwhile to take a moment to reflect on how dog bites occur, how to prevent them, and what to do if a dog does indeed bite.