In California, especially large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Riverside / San Bernardino, dog bites occur frequently. In fact, California is the leading state in the United States when it comes to the amount of deadly attacks by canines that occur. Many dog owners may argue that the dog was provoked, but many times, this is not so. In actuality, quite often the individual wasn’t even bothering the dog in any way. With children, dog bites and attacks are more frequent and occur even when children attempt to do something that they don’t think would make a dog feel threatened, such as trying to pet it.
Any dog breed can cause injury or death to an adult, child, or infant. However, the following breeds are the most frequent when it comes to fatalities:
- Pit Bulls
- Alaskan Malamutes
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Wolf Hybrids
Statistics show that approximately 94% of dog bites are unprovoked. This means that 94% of all victims did not instigate the event in any way. Statistics from the Golden State also show that about 70% of fatal dog attack victims were under the age of 12. The second largest group to experience fatal injuries related to this type of attack are senior citizens. Finally, the third largest group consists of postal workers and meter readers.
Common dog bite scenarios include the following:
- Dogs escaping due to not being properly restrained or not maintaining proper fencing or barriers and attacking pedestrians
- Dogs attacking each other while their owners are walking with their pets and attacking the owners when they attempt to break up the dog fight
- Canines being allowed off their leash in public places and running down and attacking passersby
- Dogs attacking meter readers, postal workers, construction workers or other persons at the home with whom the dog is not familiar
- Dogs biting children who try to pet or put their face near the dog’s snout
- Female dogs aggressively protecting puppies
- Canine aggression in protecting the home or children within the home
- Dog owners loosing control of their animal while on leash
- Attacks at dog beaches and parks
Common injuries sustained as a result of a dog attack:
- Puncture wounds from canine teeth piercing the skin
- Head and facial lacerations
- Infections from puncture wounds or infectious diseases such as rabies
- Ligament tears or fractures due to being knocked down or dragged by the dog
- Loss of digits including fingers and toes
- Eye punctures causing partial or complete vision loss
In some cases, including several recent incidents involving single and multiple dog attacks, there have also been reported fatalities involving children and the elderly in and around Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.Dog Bite Attorney Steven Sweat Discusses What the CA Law Says About the Liability of a Dog Owner for an Injury Caused by Their Animal
California Civil Code section 3342(a) mandates that the owner of a domestic animal is strictly liable for any harm caused by that animal regardless of whether the dog showed any prior propensity to bite or attack people. If the person harmed was in a public place or lawfully in a private place when the attack occurred, the owner will most likely be found civilly liable for the incident regardless of whether they were found to be negligent or unreasonable in believing their dog would not attack people. Related California Statutes also prohibit the running wild of female dogs in heat (California Food and Agricultural Code 30954). In addition, the City of Los Angeles (L.A. Municipal Code section 53.06) mandates that any dog owner in the City of L.A. is required to keep their canine exclusively upon the owner’s property unless the dog is on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet in length. While there are some dog parks which allow animals off leash, the owner is still responsible for any injury caused by their pet on or off their own residential property per Civil Code 3342, cited above.
California law also provides for a process by which a dog can be deemed “vicious” and be quarantined or put down. California Food & Agricultural Code 31601, et.seq. provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
- Basis for Law: “Potentially dangerous and vicious dogs have become a serious and widespread threat to the safety and welfare of citizens of this state. In recent years, they have assaulted without provocation and seriously injured numerous individuals, particularly children, andhave killed numerous dogs. Many of these attacks have occurred in public places.”
- Legal Definition of “Vicious” and “Dangerous” Dogs in Cal: California statutes define a “potentially dangerous” dog as any dog that has attacked a person in an unprovoked manner requiring the person to take defensive measures, a dog that has bitten a person or a dog that has attacked another domestic animal off the property of the owner on two or more separate occasions within a 36 month period. A “Vicious dog” is defined as one who inflicts “severe injury” (defined as bodily harm that results in “muscle tears or disfiguring lacerations or requires multiple sutures or corrective or cosmetic surgery”) on a human being or kills someone.
Oftentimes, it is important to investigate these cases early, file a report with or request further follow up including quarantine by the county animal control department and take other measures to ensure that the event is documented. A dog bite attorney will need to act quickly ascertain to whom the dog belongs, whether that person is a home owner or renter and whether there may be insurance coverage for the medical expenses and pain and suffering related to the incident.