Domestic pets are very common in California. What if one a pet injures a person in a home or out on the street. Is the owner liable? The answer depends on the type of animal that bit or attacked the victim. If the animal is a dog, California has a strict liability statute. Civil Code Section 3342 holds the owner liable for any bite caused their dog in any private or public place. The owner is liable even though it may be the first time the dog ever bit anyone or even if the owner was not aware of the dog’s propensity to bite. Keep in mind that California has this strict liability statute for dogs only. Other types of domestic animals, such as cats, horses, etc…, strict liability does not apply. Hence, if a horse bites an individual, the owner would not be liable unless it can be shown that the particular horse has bit someone in the the past or the owner was previously aware of the horse’s propensity to bite. This will be very difficult to show as the owner usually will never admit that he or she is aware of their horse’s propensity to bite. Thus, unless there is some record (i.e. animal control report) or a witness who can confirm past vicious conduct, liability would be very difficult to prove.
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