An estimated 4.7 million Americans will be bitten by dogs this year. Children are the primary victims of these injuries. Approximately 800,000 people will require medical care each year due to dog bites. Over the past 15 years, more than half the states have passed laws with stiff penalties for owners of dogs who cause serious injury or death. (Source: American Veterinary Medical Association).
Arizona Dog Bites Laws
Arizona has several laws relating to dog bite injuries.
Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1025. This law states that an owner of a dog is liable for injuries caused by dog bites without the need to prove negligence on the part of the dog owner. This is known as “strict liability”. The only defenses to a claim under this statute are trespassing or provoking the dog. This statute applies to dog bites. It does not apply to cats or other pets. It also does not apply to other injuries that may be caused by a dog, such as scratches with the claws.
Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1020. This law imposes liability upon anyone who allows a dog to run at large, for any type of injury to a person or property. This law is broader than the strict liability statute. The injuries can be due to a bite, as well as other injuries, such as a broken leg if a dog jumps on someone riding by on a bicycle. The law imposes liability not only on the owner, but also “person or persons responsible for the dog”. This may include pet sitters or others who may be taking care of another person’s dog.
Arizona common law. Arizona has followed the common law rule for dog bites for many years. This generally requires proof that the owner knew, or should have known, about the dangerous propensities of their dog. For example, if a dog owner has a dog that has bitten other people in the past and the owner does nothing to keep the dog away from visitors, the dog owner can be held liable if the dog bites a guest. However, if the dog had never bitten anyone before and the owner has no reason to believe the dog would harm anyone, the dog owner may not be liable even if it severely injures someone.
Deadlines. Different deadlines apply for different types of dog bite claims. Some claims have to be made within one year, while other have to made within two years, depending on the law involved. There are some dig bite claims that must be made in as little as 180 days if a governmental agency is involved. Because of these deadlines, a victim of a dog bite should be seek legal advice quickly.
A Special Report published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association looked at breeds that were involved in fatal attacks on human. In reviewing 20 years of data, they found pit bulls were responsible for more fatal attacks than any other breed. In fact, pit bulls caused almost twice as many deaths as Rottweilers, the second most common breed responsible for fatal attacks. Together, pit bulls and Rottwielers caused two-thirds of all fatal human attacks.
Preventing Dog Bites
The Center for Disease Control offers the following safety tips for preventing dog bites in children:
• Do not approach an unfamiliar animal.
• Do not run from a dog and scream.
• Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
• If knocked over, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
• Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
• Immediately report stray a dog displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
• Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
• Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
• Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
• If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.