While the right of a person to keep a ferocious dog, that is, one accustomed to bite people, is recognized by the law, California has long followed the common-law rule of strict liability for harm done by a domestic animal with known vicious or dangerous propensities abnormal to its class. Indeed, it is because dangerous propensities are abnormal to dogs as a class that the rule of strict liability comes into play.
Thus, a dog’s bad character or evil disposition is not presumed; rather, a dog is presumed to be tame, docile, and harmless until the contrary appears. However, when it is once established that the dog is of a vicious and mischievous nature and that the person owning or keeping it had knowledge of that fact, the same responsibility attaches to the owner to keep it from doing mischief as the keeper of an animal naturally ferocious would be subject to, and proof of negligence on the part of the owner of the dog is unnecessary.
A general dog bite law, known as the “dog-bite” statute, provides for the liability of the owner of a dog that bites a person while that person is in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of the viciousness, thus allowing one to recover without having to show fault. However, in adopting the statute, the legislature did not intend to render inapplicable such defenses as assumption of risk or willfully invited injury. The statute was not designed merely to prevent dogs from doing harm while they rove, but to prevent dogs from becoming a hazard to the community. Thus, the voluntary act of a dog handler, who was bitten on stopping by the road to assist an injured dog, did not remove the handler from the class of persons to be protected. On the other hand, the statute was designed to protect persons from being bitten in public places, not to protect veterinarians administering treatment in the privacy of their offices.
One is no longer liable under the dog-bite statute as an owner where title to the dog has already been transferred at the time the injury occurs. Accordingly, a humane society is not liable where title to the dog has vested in the injured person by payment of the impounding fee and acceptance of the animal before the attack.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a dog bite accident call Thompson | Wedeking today for you free case evaluation.