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Do owners of dangerous dogs face more liability?

People in California know that dog bites are a fairly common problem in many parts of the state, as people in all types of neighborhoods often possess pets that have the propensity for violent or aggressive behavior. Some are trained attack dogs, some are dogs who are bred for violence and some are otherwise well-mannered pets who react unfortunately to stressful situations or people. Regardless of the type of dog, any owner of a dog who bites or otherwise inflicts injury on another person is probably going to be held liable for the damage the dog causes, unless the victim is trespassing on private property when the attack occurred.

However, owners of dogs with known violent attributes are held to a higher standard, and may face liability under a wider array of circumstances than other animals. California state law requires the owner of a dog who has been known to bite another person to take reasonable steps to protect others from being attacked or bitten by such dog. If the dog owner fails to do so, and the dog bites another person, then the owner could face even more serious consequences, including the impoundment or destruction of the animal.

Victims of animal attacks might be able to prove their case more easily if the animal has a history of violent behavior. In such cases the owner has to affirmatively prove that they took reasonable steps to protect the victim and others from the dog. If they fail to do so and the dog causes serious injury, the dog bite victim could be entitled to damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering and potentially other compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, the dog owner may have to take more drastic measures to protect others from their dangerous animal, which is news no pet owner wants to face.

Source: California Civil Code, "Section 3333-3343.7," accessed on Aug. 29, 2014

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