Animal Attacks and Liability: How to Protect People and Pets

We all love our pets. As members of our family, our furry friends need to be looked after and cared for similar to children. However, one fairly obvious difference here would be in liability when it comes to animals attacking someone. While we’d never want to imagine that our pet could cause harm to another person or animal, not considering this is often what leads to these situations in the first place. Instead of waiting until it’s too late, learn how to protect people and pets from lashing out and injuring someone as well as what kind of things you would be liable for under the law.


Bites are typically one of the things you’ll most often encounter when it comes to animal attacks and liability law, especially with dogs. In the state of California, dog bite laws are somewhat limited by design. Specifically, they only cover dog bites and not other forms of injury by an animal, though this can factor into the case or other charges. In order to be charged on behalf of a dog that’s bitten someone, you must either be the legal owner of the animal or be a caretaker with proper and provable foreknowledge of the animal’s ability to harm someone (in other words, the owner must have told you the dog is prone to biting or is aggressive prior to putting you in charge).

What’s Covered?

While it may sound cut and dry, there are various situations where a dog biting or attacking someone will lead to legal action and situations where it will not. For the former scenarios, you have fairly unambiguous situations like your dog escaping from your yard or out of your grip and attacking someone without provocation. Other situations where you would not be protected when your dog bites would be scenarios in which the other party interacted with your animal but did not show any aggression or ignore your dog’s own aggression. Attempting to pet an animal, walking in the direction of an animal, feeding an animal, and similar situations are examples of this. The bitten party is also not said to have assumed the risk of interacting with an animal if they have done so in the past with no obvious signs of danger from that animal, such as having played with your dog in the past without injury.

What’s Not Covered?

There are several situations where a dog biting or harming someone will not be grounds for legal action against the dog’s owner. For example, someone who trains dogs, especially guard dogs, is said to assume the risk of being attacked by purposefully putting themselves in the situation of confronting dogs in an aggressive manner. Additionally, actions that result in being attacked by a dog that involve trespassing to reach the animal or were the direct result of ignoring signs of aggression or danger from the animal prior to the attack frequently come back to bite the plaintiff, as judges have ruled that the person bitten assumed the risk of the attack by knowingly ignoring these signs and/or breaking the law to put themselves in the situation of being attacked.

Avoiding the Situation

Whether you know a situation where your dog has bitten someone would be legally justified or not, you naturally want to avoid these kinds of situations in the first place. The easiest way to do this is to simply keep your dog under supervision and control at all times while you’re out together. An appropriately-sized leash of no more than six feet is a good starting point. You also shouldn’t put your animal in the care of someone else unless you know them to be trustworthy and know that they understand and can handle the risks associated with taking responsibility for your pet.

Summing Up

Overall, protecting yourself, your animal, and others is a crucial part of having a pet. Practice good common sense and stay aware of what your animal is doing when you’re together, and remember the different situations that can arise based on how a dog bite occurs. For more information on dog bite laws and other legal help, contact Freeman & Freeman today.

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