There is no doubt that Americans love their pets. Human beings and dogs have been living together for tens of thousands of years. There is a saying that “a dog he is a man’s best friend.”
I am myself have three dogs; two Siberian Huskies, and a good old-fashioned American Mutt that I rescued from a pound.
Although a dog may be your best friend, a dog could turn into your worst nightmare if the dog bites and/or otherwise attacks a person.
In the state of California; dog owners are strictly liable for the actions of their dogs. In other words if your dog bites a person, you are strictly liable for all damages that the dog causes.
No matter how well trained your dog is, you really never know when they will bite. Even small breeds can cause bites that result in permanent scarring, and significant damages.
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 yard and home so that the dog cannot run away and bite someone; and secure your dog in a room when you have visitors at your home. If you do not take precautions when it comes to your dog, you could get hit with significant damages in a lawsuit if you’re dog bites someone.
In some instances, your homeowner’s insurance policy may cover you if you’re dog bites someone in your home or on your property. In some instances they may not. If you do have homeowners insurance that will cover a dog bite, that is great, however in the end you will probably end up paying a higher premium for homeowners insurance, or have your insurance canceled altogether. If you do not have insurance, you can get stuck with a massive judgment in a lawsuit that you have to pay out of your own pocket.
There is another issue with respect to dog bite cases that affects landlords who rent their property out to persons who own dogs; a landlord can be held liable for their tenant’s dogs under negligence, and premises liability theory. I have successfully handled cases against landlords whose tenant’s dogs bit a person.
Landlords are not strictly liable for dog bites caused by their tenant’s dogs, however they could be held liable under negligence and premises liability theory, if they know or should have known that any dogs owned by their tenants had a propensity 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