What Happens if Your Dog Bites Another Dog?
In California, you are automatically responsible for any injuries that your dog inflicts upon another human, whether or not you were negligent. If your dog bites another dog, however, a different set of rules applies. Since dogs are classified as personal property under California law, these cases take the form of property damage lawsuits rather than personal injury claims.
Your Liability if Your Dog Bites Another Dog in California
California Civil Code Section 3342 is the state’s dog bite statute. This is a strict liability law that states that dog owners are liable for the injuries and damage caused by their dogs, regardless of the issue of negligence. In other words, if your dog bites a human, you will be responsible for paying for the victim’s medical bills and losses, even if there was nothing you could have done to prevent the attack. There are some exceptions for cases where a victim was trespassing or provoked the dog.
However, Civil Code 3342 is not the law that applies to a case where your dog bites another dog or domestic animal. Instead, this scenario is addressed in California’s property damage laws. Under state law, someone whose property gets damaged by another person’s negligence has the right to recover financial compensation from the negligent party. If your dog bites another dog, the owner of the other dog will need to prove that you were negligent to qualify for compensation using the civil justice system.
Elements of Proof in a Property Damage Claim
You will not automatically have to pay for another dog’s veterinary bills and other expenses if your dog caused the injury. In California, the owner of the other dog must prove negligence to receive compensation from you or your insurance company. Negligence is the failure to use an appropriate or reasonable amount of care. Examples of negligence in a dog-on-dog bite injury case include allowing a dog to run at large or failing to properly contain a dangerous dog.
The four elements required to prove a negligence case are:
- Duty of care. You owed the other dog’s owner a duty to use reasonable care, or a responsibility to act prudently to prevent an attack according to the situation.
- Breach of duty. You failed to fulfill your duty of care by committing an act or omission that a reasonable party would not have in similar circumstances.
- Causation. Your breach of the duty of care was the proximate (main) cause of your dog biting the other dog.
- Damages. The other pet owner suffered compensable damages as a result of your negligence, such as veterinary bills, a reduction of the animal’s market value, kennel costs, medications, etc.
If the other dog’s owner proves that you were negligent and that this caused the dog attack, you or your insurance company will be responsible for paying a settlement or judgment award. In addition, if you were found to be reckless or guilty of an intentional attack, the defendant may recover further compensation for emotional distress or punitive damages.
Is a Dog Required to Be Quarantined After it Bites Another Dog?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of the attack. According to California Food & Agriculture Code, Division 14, Chapter 9, if a dog (unprovoked) seriously bites, injures or kills a domestic animal twice in the prior 36 months, the dog may be deemed “potentially dangerous.” In this case, the dog may be held by animal control prior to a hearing. If the hearing determines that the dog is potentially dangerous, you may have to take certain steps to contain your dog in the future, such as keeping the dog indoors or securely inside a fence at all times.