There’s no doubt that Americans love their pets. Humans and dogs have lived together for tens of thousands of years. There is a saying that “a dog is a man’s best friend.”
I myself have three dogs; two Siberian Huskies, and a good old fashioned American Mutt that I rescued from a pound.
Although a dog can be your best friend, a dog can become your worst nightmare if the dog bites and/or otherwise attacks a person.
In the State of California; dog owners are strictly responsible for the actions of their dogs. In other words, if your dog bites a person, you are strictly liable for any damage caused by the dog.
No matter how well trained your dog is, you never know when he will bite. Even small breeds can cause bites that result in permanent scarring and significant damage.
It is your responsibility as a dog owner to ensure that your dog does not bite another person. You should always walk your dog on a leash; secure your garden and home so that the dog cannot run off and bite someone; and secure your dog in a room when you have visitors at your home. If you don’t take precautions when it comes to your dog, you could be hit with significant damages in a lawsuit if a dog bites someone.
In some cases, your homeowner’s insurance may cover you if you bite someone in your home or on your property. In some cases they cannot. If you have homeowner’s insurance that covers a dog bite, that’s great, but in the end, you’ll likely end up paying a higher premium for your homeowner’s insurance, or have your policy canceled altogether. If you don’t have insurance, you could be stuck with a massive judgment in a lawsuit that you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
There is another issue with dog bite cases that affects landlords who rent their property to people who own dogs; A landlord can be held liable for his tenant’s dogs under the negligence, and premise liability theory. I have handled cases against landlords whose tenant’s dogs successfully bit a person.
Landlords are not strictly liable for dog bites caused by their tenants’ dogs, but they can be held liable under negligence and premises liability theories if they know or should have known that dogs owned by their tenants had a tendency to be aggressive and/or to bite people.
The bottom line is this; love your dogs, enjoy your dogs, but make sure you keep your dogs under control at all times. The consequences of not doing so could be disastrous.
If you are a landlord, you may want to exercise extreme caution when renting to people with dogs.
By Norman Gregory Fernandez, ESQ © 2006