Who is Liable for a Dog Attack When the Dog is Loose or Off Leash?

Even a well-behaved loose dog is a problem, he could be struck by a car or lost — but what happens when that loose dog harms someone? California has strict leash laws that are designed to protect the public from dangerous dogs; unlike some states, a dog does not have to have a previous history of aggression before the owner is considered liable for the animal’s actions. Since the burden is on the owner to properly secure his pet, that liability remains, even if the dog is off leash or escapes an enclosure.

Escaped Pets

A dog that digs out from under a fence, escapes a yard or slips outdoors is considered off leash or loose; the owner is liable for any injuries that animal causes to others. Those others need to be in a public space or in a private space with permission. If you are in someone’s yard for a party and his dog runs out the door and bites you, that owner is liable, since you were there with permission. If you are walking down the street and a loose dog bites you, the dog’s owner is still to blame, since you were in public and the dog was loose. The exception would be dogs that are defending their own homes and property from an uninvited intruder. Someone breaking into a home or trespassing in a yard who is then bitten would not likely be protected by California dog bite law in this case.

Who Owns the Dog?

In some cases, the person harboring the dog may be the one liable. While most dogs live with their owners, some escape while staying with relatives, visiting or even being dog-sat. In that case, the person caring for or harboring the dog may also have some liability. Since most dog attacks are local — meaning nearby residents and neighbors can generally identify the owner, even in the absence of tags, determining whom the dog belongs to or who is responsible for it is usually not difficult. Determining negligence and where blame lies can be more complicated; if you are not sure who the dog belongs to, or the person responsible for the dog claims not to be the owner, it is important to seek out legal help from a dog bite attorney right away; you’ll need to know who the animal belongs to so you can pursue a claim.

Non-Bite Injuries

While California’s dog bite law covers bites, other injuries are possible. If a dog knocks you down or causes injury to your child or otherwise harms you, you should get in touch with an attorney to talk about your case in detail. Not all injuries are bite related, and you can still have significant medical costs and pain after a fall or other injury caused by a loose pet.

If you have been harmed by a loose or off leash dog, you should seek medical attention right away. After your injuries are treated, get in touch with our office to learn about the next steps to ensure you are treated fairly by the other party. We’re ready to help when you need us most. Contact Harshbarger Law today.