California Dog Bite Laws: Everything Pet Owners Should Know

As a personal injury lawyer specializing in dog bite cases in Fresno County, I often encounter clients who are not fully aware of California’s laws concerning dog bites. Whether you’re a dog owner or someone who’s unfortunately been bitten, understanding the legal landscape is crucial. This post aims to provide a comprehensive overview of California’s dog bite laws to help you stay informed.

Strict Liability Rule

First and foremost, it’s important to know that California follows a ‘strict liability’ rule when it comes to dog bites. This means that dog owners are held liable if their dog bites someone, even if the dog has never bitten anyone before or shown signs of aggression.

In other words, the owner cannot escape liability by claiming they didn’t know their dog could or would bite. This liability applies regardless of the breed, size, or history of the dog in question.

Where Does Strict Liability Apply?

The strict liability rule applies if the victim was bitten in a public place or lawfully in a private place. This includes the dog owner’s property, as long as the victim was there legally. Trespassers, therefore, typically cannot claim under the dog bite statute.

What if the Dog Was Provoked?

If it’s proven that the victim provoked the dog, for instance, by hurting or teasing it, this could affect the liability of the dog owner. However, the standard for provocation is high, and it would be up to the defense to prove that the dog was indeed provoked.

Exceptions to the Rule

The strict liability statute does not apply to military or police dogs that bite while performing their duties. Additionally, if a dog bites while protecting its owner from an attack or responding to pain or injury, it might not fall under the strict liability rule.

Non-Bite Injuries

While California’s dog bite statute covers injuries from bites, dogs can cause harm in other ways, such as knocking a person over. For non-bite injuries, a victim usually must prove that the dog owner was negligent to recover damages.

The Importance of Responsible Ownership

As a dog owner in California, it’s crucial to understand these laws and your responsibilities. Proper training, socialization, and control of your dog can go a long way in preventing unfortunate incidents. Additionally, ensuring your dog is safe and secure on your property can help avoid potential liability issues.


Understanding California’s dog bite law is essential for every pet owner. It’s crucial not only from a legal standpoint but also for the safety and well-being of our community. Remember, responsible pet ownership isn’t just about taking care of your dog; it’s about being responsible for your dog’s interactions with people and other animals.

Got bit? Let us help.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a dog bite incident and need legal advice, reach out to us at Narayan Law. We’re here to guide you through the legal process and ensure your rights are protected. Similarly, if you’re a dog owner with legal concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Speak To Me

Practice Areas

Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this site without seeking legal or other professional advice. The contents of this post contain general information and may not reflect current legal developments or address your situation. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on this site.