“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

― Groucho Marx

Los Angeles County is congested with animals and humans.  It is a huge, sprawling metropolis with more people arriving every day.   So many people have dogs.   It seems I am always running into other people walking their dogs on the street whenever I am walking mine.  My dog does not like every dog she meets, and not every dog likes her.   I am very careful to always have her on a short leash when we encounter other dogs, but often I find that other owners are not as careful as I am.   I have been bitten and my dogs have been bitten.   I still adore dogs, but between my own experience and because I have represented clients in several dog bite cases, I am acutely aware of the risks of dog ownership – how even the cutest dog can get into trouble just by being a dog.

With the increased congestion of humans and animals in our city, it has never been more important for dog owners to be aware of the liability that comes with owning a dog who bites another dog or human.  One common misconception people have is that their dog can only be responsible for biting another dog or human if it has bitten once before.  This is not the law in California.  Your dog does not have to have bitten someone once before in California before you can be financially responsible for a bite.  California is considered a “strict liability” state when it comes to bites.

Another popular misconception:  “I am not responsible if I am just baby-sitting someone else’s dogs.”  False.   In California, even if you are “babysitting” someone else’s dog, you can still be responsible if you negligently handle the dog, for example, by failing to have that dog on a leash when it attacks, or by failing to properly supervise that dog while babysitting a human baby if that baby is attacked by the dog.

Landlords (and homeowner’s associations, too) can be responsible for dogs that attack others on their premises, especially when they know there are dogs there who have dangerous propsensities.

If you are bitten by a dog, the damages you can recover include:

– Past and future Medical bills

– Past and future pain and suffering

– Lost income

– Lifetime care costs, depending upon the severity of the injuries.

If your dog is bitten, you can also recover damages for the medical expenses.  In some extreme cases, a victim might also be entitled to punitive damages over and above your medical specials and compensatory damages.

There are over 78.2 million dogs in the United States, and approximately 4.5 million people in the US get bitten by dogs every year.  Here are some very frightening dog attack statistics from 2012:

–       38 U.S. fatal dog attacks occurred in 2012, with pit bulls contributed to 61% (23) of these deaths.  Rottweilers are the second most lethal dog breed and accounted for 68% of all fatal attacks in 2012.  (Pit bulls make up less than 5% of the total U.S. dog population.)

–       From 2005 to 2012, pit bulls killed 151 Americans, about one citizen every 19 days, versus rottweilers, which killed 32, about one citizen every 91 days.

–       Annual data from 2012 shows that 50% of the victims were adults, 21-years and older, and the other half were children, ages 8-years and younger. Of the total children killed by dogs in 2012, 79% were ages 2-years and younger.

–       In 2012, roughly one-third, 32% of all dog bite fatality victims were either visiting or living temporarily with the dog’s owner when the fatal attack occurred. Children 8-years and younger accounted for 75% of these deaths.

–       Dog ownership information for 2012 shows that family dogs comprised 58% of all fatal occurrences; 82% of all incidents occurred on the dog owner’s property and 18% resulted in criminal charges.

–       California and North Carolina led fatalities in 2012, each with 4 deaths. 75% of the California deaths occurred in San Diego County. Pit bull-type dogs accounted for 88% (7) of the 8 deaths. New Mexico, Ohio and Texas followed, each with 3 deaths.

In addition to being a dog lover, Jennifer Gardner is a Los Angeles civil and criminal defense attorney and dog bite lawyer.  If you or someone you know has been bitten or have a dog who has bit someone, contact her for a complimentary consultation today.

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