Chances are, you saw a dog today. Even if you don’t own one, you probably saw one on a street, in a park, in a car or maybe even in a place of business. Los Angeles County is home to well over a million and a half dogs. And people in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas love their dogs—this metropolitan area is home to dog-friendly restaurants, dog-friendly hotels, and off-leash parks and beaches.
Given the number of dogs around, there are also a lot of dog bites. In 2015, 38,657 people visited an emergency room because of a dog bite in California, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (https://www.oshpd.ca.gov/documents/pressreleases/2016/Dog-Bites-Chart-11-2016.jpg). That’s up from approximately 35,000 emergency room visits for dog bites in 2010. Many more bites occur than that do not require ER visits: in 2011, California health departments and animal control offices received reports of more than 50,000 animal bites. More than three quarters of those bites were caused by dogs.
What do dog owners need to know about dog bites?
Not all dog owners realize that the responsibility for controlling a pet is on the pet owner. California law does not provide for something called a “one bite rule,” which means that the owner must have some knowledge that their dog might bite (for example, having already bitten one person or animal). Instead, California law says that dog owners are responsible for any dog bite or other injuries caused by the dog (with some exceptions).
What rules apply to dog owners in California?
In addition to the strict liability of owners for the damaging behavior of their dogs, there are many other laws and ordinances that govern dog owners, many of which are unknown or often unobeyed. Dog bite lawyers recommend that owners follow all rules that apply to dog ownership, especially the leash law.
Los Angeles County Leash Law
Dog owners must keep their dogs from roaming about unattended. When dogs are not restrained in a fenced in area, they must be on a “substantial chain or leash” not longer than six feet. Many dog owners keep their dogs on leashes, but a common sight nowadays is a retractable leash, which may extend up to 26 feet or even longer. While long leashes might be helpful while training a dog, using them while walking a dog or playing in a park actually violates the law. If the dog bites another person or animal while on a long leash, the process of addressing the complaint may be even more complicated because more than one law has been violated.
Another part of the leash law that is more nuanced but very important is a requirement that the dog on the leash be “in the charge, care, custody or control of a competent person” (10.32.010 Dogs–Running at large prohibited—Exceptions). This means that a dog weighing 70 or 80 pounds should not be walked by a child or small adult weighing less than 80 pounds and probably not even less than 100 pounds, unless that person is very strong. If a strong dog gets startled or aggressive, the person with the dog must be able to control the dog’s behavior or is in violation of the county ordnance.
While dogs bring great joy to the people who own them, dog ownership brings great responsibility. To prevent the need for dog bite lawyers, pet owners should follow all state and local rules about owning and caring for animals. In the event you need an attorney who understands the laws related to dog bites, call the dog bite lawyers at Cerritos Legal today at 562-865-9356 for your free consultation.