Guide to California Dog Bite Laws 2023 – Forbes Advisor


California dog bite law states that dog owners are responsible for all bites that occur in public places or on private property that the victim is lawfully visiting. This includes bites at the owner’s home, if the victim is allowed to be there.

A person is considered to be lawfully visiting private property if they are on that property performing duties assigned to them by California law or assigned to them by federal laws or postal regulations. A person is also a legitimate visitor if they are there because of the express or tacit invitation of the owner.

According to California dog bite law, it doesn’t matter if the animal has been vicious before or if the dog’s owner had reason to suspect that the dog would bite. California imposes strict liability rules that hold owners accountable all bites. This is different from other states that enforce “one-bite” rules or hold owners liable for bites only if there was reason to suspect the dog would injure someone.

What is considered a dog bite in California?

A California dog bite occurs any time a dog uses its teeth to grab a person or any time the dog’s jaw closes around a person.

A person can be “bitten” by a dog even if the dog has not broken its skin. In some cases, a “bite” even occurs when the dog simply grabs hold of clothing if, for example, the incident results in the victim being injured in a fall caused by the dog grabbing their clothing.

Are California dog owners responsible for intruder bites?

California dog bite law only holds dog owners strictly responsible for bites when the incident occurs on public property or when the victim was lawfully on private property. Trespassers are not legally on the property, so dog owners are generally not responsible for bites from trespassers.

In some limited cases, a trespasser may be able to prove that the owner of the dog was negligent in some way and may be able to recover compensation for injuries caused by a dog due negligence of the owner. But it’s less likely to be a successful case for the bite victim.