Californians own the most dogs in any state in the US, with nearly 40% of the households owning at least one dog. Insurance payouts for dog bite settlements are also higher in California than any other state. What does it entail to own dogs in the state? What are the laws that surround dog ownership in California?
Dogs inside cars
The California Penal Code prohibits dog owners from leaving their dogs inside their vehicles on an extremely hot or extremely cold day, as the extreme temperatures can damage the dog’s organs and cause death. Temperatures above 72 degrees are not ideal as the heat inside the vehicle will rise above that immediately. Even in average temperatures, there are still rules to follow. The dog must have ventilation inside the car and access to food and water. A policeman can legally break into your car and free your dog in case it is locked in a car with no window ventilation and dishes near it.
In moving vehicles, dogs are not allowed to be at the back of a pickup truck, unless they are secured in a cage. It is best to put them in the back seat, rather than the passenger seat as they can cause a distraction to the driver.
California has strict liability laws in terms of dog bites, which means that owners are responsible for most dog bite injuries. Civil Code section 3342 states in part: “(a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” Owners cannot argue that they were not aware that their dog was dangerous or that they did what was necessary to prevent their dog from hurting someone.
- People who suffer a dog bite while the dog is carrying out police or military work.
- Trespassers or people who wander on to your property without your permission cannot sue a dog owner if they end up being bitten by the dog. In fact, many people use dogs as deterrent for trespassers and burglars. However, there are those who are exempt from this such as postal employees, as they are legally allowed to enter one’s property to deliver mail.
- If someone already knows about the risk of getting bitten by the dog, but took the action that resulted to it anyway, that person may not hold the owner liable. For example, the owner explicitly said, “my dog is in a really bad mood today, do not pet him as you might get bitten,” but the person proceeded to pet the dog. This is also true for those who neglect signs that say “Beware of dogs.”
- The courts do not usually hold the owner liable if the victim of the dog bite provoked or mistreated the dog in any way, which resulted in the dog to respond aggressively.
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