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Can you be held liable if your dog bites someone at a dog park?

Dog parks are great places to sit back and relax as you watch your pet run free for a while. You may find enjoyment in seeing your dog make new friends and even learn a few new social skills. However, dog parks are not always friendly places. Incidents of bites at dog parks are very prevalent. If your dog bites another person, you may be liable.

In California, the dog bite statute states that you as the owner of the dog will be liable for damages if it occurred in a public place or at a private place that the other person was lawfully able to be in. The statute does not cover dog attacks, only dog bites. California is a strict liability state which means the owner of the dog is responsible for its actions.

When you visit a dog park it is assumed you understand the risks involved being there and will be responsible and safe with your pet. Park owners or whoever maintains the park is typically not liable when a dog bites someone while on the premises.

Several factors can influence liability of your dog’s actions such as:

  • Both the size and the breed of the dog as well as the behavior the dog was exhibiting
  • The size and disposition of the human that was bitten
  • Not following the instructions that are posted at the dog park
  • A local ordinance that requires leashes, collars, muzzles or other similar items
  • The fact that the owner did not know their pet would bite or has a history of attacking people -- not knowing your dog could bite does not relieve liability

As the owner of a dog you can sometimes be held liable for recklessness or negligence if you brought your dog to a park with knowledge the dog has a propensity to bite someone. If you find your frustrations boiling over while at the dog park because of another owner, you could even face criminal charges if you command your dog to bite another person.

Dog parks can be a fun outing for both you and your dog to socialize and enjoy time outdoors. Being a responsible pet owner is crucial to staying safe while at a dog park.

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