The California Litigator
March 2, 2011
By Barbara Haubrich-Hass, ACP/CAS
Summer is right around the corner. If you are like me, family and friends will soon be coming over to swim in the pool and enjoy a steak cooked on the BBQ. Warmer weather also means taking our dogs for a walk, and bringing them on short trips. However, before we have too much fun with our animals, we need to remember the California laws concerning our animals.
Vehicle Animal Safety: California Penal Code § 597.7 prohibits leaving or confining an animal in an unattended automobile under conditions that endanger their health, whether it is exposure to heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of food and water. Animal control officers now have authority to break into cars to save pets that are in distress. Additionally, the owner of an unattended vehicle containing an endangered pet will face a fine of up to $500 and as much as six months in jail.
Tethering Animal Safety: California Health & Safety Code § 122335 makes it illegal to tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to a tree, dog house, fence, or any other stationary object for no more than three hours. Depending on the offense, violation of this law can result in an infraction or misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 per dog and up to six months in jail. There are some exceptions to the law that allows for dogs to be tied to a pulley system, tethering to allow owners to complete temporary tasks, or tethering on farms if it is necessary for the animal's safety.
Dog Bites: California Civil Code § 3342 sets forth California's dog bite law. It provides that the owner of a dog is liable to anyone bitten by their dog who is in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner's property regardless of whether the dog has ever bit anyone before and regardless of whether the owner knew the dog had bitten anyone before.
Section 3342 is important because it creates what is known as "strict liability." Dog owners are liable for their dog's actions even for first time bites. It does not matter if the dog never bit someone before, if the dog was restrained, or if the dog was on or off the property. If you own a dog that bites someone, you are strictly liable.
Section 3342 only creates liability for dog owners. If a person is caring for a dog, but does not own it, that person has no liability under § 3342. However, if the caregiver knows that the dog has a dangerous propensity, or if the caregiver is otherwise negligent in what led up to the bite, then the caregiver can be held liable.
In some instances a landlord can be responsible for dogs owned by their tenants. If the landlord knows of the dog, and also knows that the dog has a dangerous propensity, then the landlord may be liable.
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Barbara Haubrich-Hass, ACP/CAS
The California Litigator