Dangerous Dogs California Laws

If you suffered injuries after being bitten by a dog, you likely have many questions, including who will pay for your damages. You might also wonder what happens to the dog after an attack.

California has multiple laws dealing with dog bites and what the state defines as a vicious dog. You may hear dogs get “one free bite,” but that isn’t necessarily true as owners can be liable for every bite. The California dangerous dog law defines potentially dangerous or vicious dogs, but the law is not breed-specific.

Understanding the laws surrounding vicious dogs in California can be confusing. You need a California dog bite attorney to help you pursue a claim against the responsible parties.

Definition of Potentially Dangerous and Vicious Dogs in California

The dangerous dog law in California spans several different sections, including the California Food and Agriculture Code. Division 14, Chapter 9, Section 31602 defines a “potentially dangerous dog” as:

  • A dog that acts in a way that requires a person to take defensive action to prevent injury when the dog and person are not on the property of the dog’s keeper or owner—the dog must act this way when unprovoked at two different times within the previous 36 months;
  • An unprovoked dog that bites someone, causing injuries more minor than a severe injury;
  • Any dog that has seriously bitten, killed, inflicted an injury, or otherwise caused injuries by attacking a domestic animal while away from the dog’s keeper or owner’s property—the dog must have been unprovoked, and this must have happened at least two different times within the prior 36 months.

As you can see, the law defines more than what happens when a dog bites a person. This statute also means that if a dog bites another dog, the law in California will declare it a potentially dangerous dog. But an attack on another animal must be unprovoked and happen twice in 36 months.

Section 31603 of the same code also defines a vicious dog as being one that either:

  • Acts in an aggressive manner when unprovoked, and inflicts severe injury to or kills a person; or
  • Was previously declared to be and is currently defined as a potentially dangerous dog—and after the owner was notified, the dog continues behavior as described in Section 31602, or the owners maintain it in a manner that violates Section 31641, 31642, or 31643 of the code.

If you sustained injuries from a dog bite, don’t worry about trying to determine if the dog was already declared a potentially dangerous or vicious dog. Let an experienced dog bite lawyer in California help you. At the Beliz Law Firm, we have years of experience dealing with dangerous dog claims and can help protect your rights.

What Do Owners Need to Do for Potentially Dangerous or Vicious Dogs?

Under the California Food and Agriculture Code, owners must take specific actions with a potentially dangerous dog. A potentially dangerous dog must be registered, vaccinated, and the owners could pay an additional licensing fee.

The dog must be kept inside the owner’s home or behind a secure fence where the dog cannot escape, and children cannot trespass. If the dog is not on the owner’s property, they must have it restrained by a substantial leash of appropriate length and controlled by an adult.

The owner must notify animal control in writing if the dog is sold, transferred, dies, or permanently removed from the city or county where the owner resides. They must notify animal control about the dog’s new location within two working days of the change.  

If the court declares the dog vicious, animal control departments have rights under the dangerous dog bite law. Euthanasia might possibly be ordered by the court in this situation. If animal control does not destroy the dog, owners will be subject to additional conditions to protect others from potentially being attacked.

The dog owner may be subject to additional rules and restrictions depending on their city. Various cities and counties in California have provisions for controlling dangerous or vicious dogs. The caveat is that these programs cannot be restrictive as to breed.

What Happens if an Owner Violates the California Dangerous Dog Law?

As stated, a victim may bring a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner. But the owner could also face criminal prosecution for violating the dangerous dog law in California. California Penal Code 399 can impose criminal charges for failure to control a dangerous animal.

This statute applies when the keeper or owner fails to use ordinary care to confine a dangerous or vicious animal, and someone else suffers severe injuries. Depending on the circumstances, the dog’s owner or keeper might be facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Both offenses could result in jail and fines.

Contact Beliz Law Firm Today

If you suffered injuries due to a dog bite in California, let the skilled legal team at the Beliz Law Firm assist you. Dog bites can result in severe physical and emotional injuries. You could be entitled to compensation for your damages. We understand what a stressful and traumatic time this is for you and can help you pursue compensation from the responsible parties.

Call today to learn more about how we can help. You only have a limited amount of time to bring a claim for damages related to a dog bite. Schedule an appointment today to ensure you don’t miss the filing deadline.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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