What Could Happen If My Dog Attacks Another Dog?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | May 21, 2022 | California Law

California’s dog bite statute holds dog owners strictly liable for damages caused when their dog injures a person.

California Civil Code §3342 states the dog owner is liable for damages suffered by any person whom their dog bites. The dog owner is still liable even though the dog has not shown any viciousness before biting someone.

However, the law does not apply when a dog attacks another dog. The dog bite law does not apply because California laws view dogs as personal property. Therefore, if a dog attacks your dog, you need to seek damages from the dog owner under negligence laws.

Can I Be Sued If My Dog Attacks Another Dog in Los Angeles?

Yes, the other dog’s owner can sue you for damages via a negligence action if your dog attacks their dog. If your dog injures a person, they can sue you via a strict liability action under the statute cited above. A negligence claim requires the person to prove:

  • You owed the other person a duty of care
  • You breached the duty of care
  • The breach of duty caused the other party’s injuries
  • The other party sustained damages

The strict liability cause of action only requires proving the latter two elements. In a dog attack case that involves another animal, you can only be held liable for damages if the other dog owner can prove:

  • You had notice of your dog’s dangerous, aggressive, or vicious tendencies; OR,
  • You are negligent per se because you violated a local or state animal control law enacted to protect the public.

Therefore, if you have witnessed your dog being aggressive to other dogs, you could be held liable for damages. Likewise, if your dog has ever bitten another dog or attacked another dog, you could be held liable for the other dog owner’s damages. You could also be held liable for breaking a leash law or other animal control laws.

What Types of Damages Could You Be Liable for If Your Dog Bites Another Dog?

There are several types of damages you could be liable for if your dog attacks or bites another dog. Potential damages that you could be required to pay include, but might not be limited to:

Cost of Medical Treatment for the Other Dog

You might be required to pay costly veterinarian fees for the treatment of the dog’s injuries. The fees and costs of treatment could include:

  • X-rays and other diagnostic tests
  • Vet bills
  • Surgery costs
  • Medications and medical supplies
  • Rehabilitation costs

The costs may also include any expenses related to the dog’s recovery, including boarding fees. The costs should be reasonable and necessary.

Reduction in Market Value

You could be liable for any reduction in the dog’s value since the dog is considered personal property under California law.

Therefore, if the dog sustains serious injuries and is a valuable breed, you could owe a substantial amount of money for a decrease in the dog’s market value. For example, if the owner breeds the dog, the dog’s value could decrease considerably if it cannot breed or if the injuries impact future income.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The other dog owner could sue you for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The owner would need to prove:

  • You exercised outrageous and extreme behavior
  • You either intended to or recklessly caused the other dog owner emotional distress
  • The other dog owner sustained extreme or severe emotional distress
  • The cause of the dog owner’s emotional distress was your outrageous or extreme conduct

The value of an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim would depend on the facts of the case. A jury would decide whether you are liable and how much the claim is worth.

Punitive Damages

A jury could award punitive damages in some cases for intentional or grossly negligent conduct. These damages are intended to “punish” defendants for their behavior. Punitive damages deter defendants and others from repeating the conduct that caused harm to the plaintiff.

Should I Seek Legal Advice If My Dog Attacks Another Dog?

Yes, it is in your best interest to talk with a criminal defense lawyer about your case. In addition to being held liable for damages in civil court, you could face one or more criminal charges. Depending on the facts of the case, law enforcement officers could charge you with criminal offenses or cite you for violations of local and state animal control laws.

An attorney assesses your case and advises you of your legal rights and options for defending criminal charges. A lawyer can also help you determine how to handle a civil action. Even though your dog attacked another dog, the other party must prove their case in court to hold you liable for damages.

Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm of The Rodriguez Law Group Today For Help

For more information please contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense law firm of The Rodriguez Law Group for a free consultation, give us a call at (213) 995-6767or visit our convenient location:

The Rodriguez Law Group – Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
626 Wilshire Blvd Suite 460, Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States