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Does the Dog Breed, Size, or Age Matter in Dog Bite Cases?

Does the Dog Breed, Size, or Age Matter in Dog Bite Cases?

Each year in the United States, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those bites, 800,000 required the person bitten to seek medical treatment. While the majority of dog bites are minor and do not result in serious injuries, all dog bites are traumatic experiences and can leave a person scared of being attacked again for the rest of their lives. When thinking about what types of dogs are more likely to bite, many people immediately think of large dogs including Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, or stray dogs that live on the street.  This is not necessarily true, however, as all dogs have the capability to bite no matter their breed, size, or age. In California, the breed, size, and age of a dog does not make a difference when it comes to filing a claim for dog bite injuries. What does matter is if the dog is considered dangerous or vicious by the state and if the owner of that dog knew their pet had a tendency to harm others.

All dogs can bite. From puppies to senior dogs, small breeds to large, every dog has the ability to bite. Statistically, there are some breeds that are known to bite more often than others, including Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, Australian Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, Pekingeses, German Shepherds, and Cocker Spaniels. These dog breeds vary in size and strength, but this list is not exhaustive and a dog breed that is not on this list can still cause harm. Younger dogs may be more likely to bite as they have not yet learned that it is an inappropriate behavior. Older dogs who are experiencing arthritis, dementia, or other aging symptoms may be in pain and thus bite if handled in the wrong way. Even well-trained dogs with no history of aggression in the past can feel threatened and become defensive, including biting to protect themselves from harm.

When a dog bites a person in California, an investigation is performed by an animal control officer or law enforcement officer to determine what happened to cause the bite and an administrative hearing or court hearing may then take place (Food & Agr. Code, § 31621.)  California law designates a dog as “dangerous” if that dog has, without provocation, engaged in behavior that requires a person to take defensive action to prevent bodily harm, bitten someone causing injury, or injured or killed another domestic animal while off the dog owner’s property twice in a 36-month period (Food & Agr. Code, § 31602.) The law goes on to designate a dog as “vicious” if:

  • That dog was previously determined to be dangerous and continues its aggressive behavior,
  • Has aggressively attacked a person without provocation causing serious injury or death, or
  • Has been seized as a result of being part of an illegal dog fighting ring (Food & Agr. Code, § 31602.)

If the dog is considered an immediate threat to public safety, the dog will be impounded (Food & Agr. Code, §31625.) California does not have a statewide law that requires certain types of dog breeds to be spayed or neutered. However, the state does allow counties and cities to make that determination itself for the dogs that reside within its boundaries (Health & Health &1 Saf. Code Saf. Code, § 122331.) Currently thirteen cities and three counties have ordinances mandating dogs on the breed specific list to be licensed and spayed or neutered. These ordinances primarily target Pit Bulls and mixed breeds with Pit Bull ancestry, however some cities also include Chihuahuas and Rottweilers. Each ordinance provides its own age determination of when these dogs need to be spayed or neutered, some are as earlier as 8 weeks. Spayed and neutered dogs are less likely to bite in the long-run and these procedures have the added benefit of reducing the stray pet population.

In California, a dog owner is required to take extra precautions to keep others safe from their dog if they know that their dog has previously bitten someone. The owner of a dog that has been deemed dangerous may be required by the court to keep their dog indoors, on a leash, and inside a fenced yard (Food & Agr. Code, § 31642.) This requirement fulfills the extra duty of care that a dog owner now has to keep their dog from harming others. Dog owners who do not follow those requirements may be fined (Food & Agr. Code, § 31662.) This does not mean that dog owners without prior knowledge of their dog’s aggressive behaviors, or who have a dog that has never bitten anyone before, get away with having their dog bite and injure a person.

California is also a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites, meaning pet owners are able to be held responsible for most dog bite injuries. A dog bite victim has the right to sue the dog’s owner for compensation for their damages if they were bitten in a public place or were lawfully in a private place, including if they were invited into the dog owner’s property at the time of the incident (Civ. Code, § 3342.) The dog owner in these cases cannot argue that their dog had never bitten anyone previously or that they had no knowledge of their dog’s behavior. If you have been bitten by a dog, your personal injury attorney must only prove that the bite occurred while you were lawfully in a private place or in a public place. This only pertains to dog bite injuries and not other injuries caused by a dog (being knocked down or scratched, for example). It does not matter what breed, age, or size dog bit you, the owner of the dog can still be held liable.

California Lawyers for Dog Bite Injuries

Dog owners rarely want to pay for injuries caused by their dog. Our team of attorneys have extensive experience representing dog bite victims and ensuring our clients get the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Dog bites are traumatizing and the stress of a lawsuit may seem like too much to handle. We are here to help you focus on recovering while holding the dog owner accountable for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one was injured in a dog attack, contact the dog bite attorneys at Curtis Legal Group today at 1-800-LAW-3080 to discuss your case and learn how we can help you and your family recover.