Dog baring its teeth

Does the Dog Breed, Size, or Age Matter in Dog Bite Cases?

Yes, the specific details of the dog will make a difference if you get attacked by a dog in California. The breed of the dog, in particular, can be relevant to breed-specific ordinances and the dog owner’s having insurance coverage like homeowner’s insurance or an “umbrella” liability rider that might pay some of your losses.

If you or a close relative was the victim of a dog bite or attack, you will want to talk to a California personal injury attorney as soon as possible before the filing deadline passes. You can also ask the lawyer whether the dog breed, size, or age will matter in your dog bite case.

Breed of Dog

There are no breed-specific state laws in California that focus only on pit bull dogs. You might, however, find local ordinances at the city or county level that are breed-specific. Rather than singling out pit bulls, state law focuses on “vicious,” “dangerous,” or “potentially dangerous” dogs.

The breed-specific local legislation imposes breeding restrictions and requirements and spay or neuter programs to certain breeds of dogs, including:

  • Dobermans,
  • Rottweilers,
  • German Shepherds,
  • Pit Bulls,
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and 
  • American Pit Bull Terriers.

The specific dogs included in the breed-specific legislation (BSL) in your city or county might vary from this list. Also, a person with one of these breeds as a pet could have difficulty obtaining homeowner’s insurance. Some companies will not insure a homeowner who has one of these dogs. A few companies will issue a homeowner’s insurance policy but specifically exclude coverage for dog bites or attacks.

Dangerous Dogs

California law makes it a crime when the owner does not control a dog designated as a “dangerous dog.” A dog can get classified as dangerous, potentially dangerous, or vicious because of previous fights or attacks that injured someone, continued aggressive behavior, or injuring or killing a person or a domestic animal. 

The dog’s breed, size, or age are not considerations. Rather, the dog’s behavior is the controlling factor. If someone gets injured by one of these dogs, in addition to criminal penalties, a jury might award substantial money damages to the injured party.

Size of the Dog

One might think of a large breed dog when considering dog bite or dog attack injury cases, but some small breeds can be just as aggressive as larger breeds. In fact, Chihuahuas are grouped with pit bull terriers, German Shepherds, or shepherd mixes as the breeds most frequently reported for dog bites, according to the California Department of Public Health

Age of the Dog

There is no age at which a dog automatically becomes gentle, particularly if it has a history of being vicious or aggressive. In fact, just as with humans, when dogs age, they might become physically uncomfortable or mentally confused, which could lead to fighting or aggression. 

If someone else’s dog injured you in an unprovoked attack or dog bite, the owner cannot get out of liability because the dog is old. At the other end of the scale, the fact that a puppy might not have the maturity to control itself does not excuse the owners from failing to keep the dog from harming people.

The bottom line is that a dog owner has strict liability under California law if their pet bites or otherwise injures someone, even if the owner was not negligent and the animal has no history of violence or aggressiveness. The person who owns a dog can be liable for the victim’s injuries. A California personal injury attorney can help you hold the dog owner accountable for the harm you suffered. For help with your case contact our office today. The initial consult is free, and there is no obligation.