The Legal Ramifications of Dog-on-Dog Attacks in California

August 01, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in California  Special Report  
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Understanding Dog-on-Dog Aggression

Dog-on-dog aggression is a common issue that many dog owners face. It can occur for various reasons, such as territorial behavior, lack of socialization, and jealousy. When dogs feel that their personal space is being violated or perceive a threat, they may resort to aggression, leading to dog fights and injuries. It is important for dog owners to recognize the warning signs and take preventive measures to avoid such situations.

Liability for Dog Attacks in California

In California, dog owners are held strictly liable for the actions of their dogs. This means that if a person’s dog attacks another dog, the owner is responsible for any resulting injuries or damages.

The California Civil Code Section 3342 states,

“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.”

This strict liability applies to dog-on-dog attacks as well. If a dog bites or injures another dog, the owner of the attacking dog can be held financially responsible for the veterinary bills, medication, and other expenses incurred by the injured dog’s owner. However, it is important to note that emotional distress or mental anguish resulting from the loss of a dog is generally not considered in these cases.

Proving Negligence in Dog-on-Dog Attacks

Proving negligence on the part of the dog owner is crucial in dog-on-dog attack cases. While strict liability applies, proving negligence can strengthen the injured dog owner’s case and potentially lead to additional damages. To establish negligence, it must be demonstrated that the dog owner breached their duty of care towards others. This can include failing to control or confine the dog properly, lacking proper training or socialization, or allowing the dog to be in a situation where an attack was foreseeable.

Evidence such as witness statements, photographs of injuries, veterinary records, and any prior incidents involving the aggressive dog can be essential in establishing negligence. Consulting with a personal injury attorney experienced in dog bite cases can provide guidance in gathering evidence and navigating the legal process.

Dog Bite Laws in California

California has specific laws in place to address dog bite incidents. Penal Code Section 399 defines a “vicious animal” as any animal that, when unprovoked, inflicts severe injury or death on a human being. This law also applies to dog attacks on other animals, including dogs. If a dog is deemed vicious under this law, the owner may face criminal charges, and the dog could be subject to quarantine or euthanasia.

Furthermore, California has a “one-bite rule” that allows dog owners to be held liable for injuries caused by their dogs if they had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies. This means that if the dog has previously bitten or shown aggressive behavior towards another dog or person, the owner can be held accountable for any future attacks.

Filing a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

When a dog attacks another dog, it is important for the injured dog’s owner to take immediate action. One of the first steps is to contact their homeowner’s insurance company. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage for dog-related incidents, including dog-on-dog attacks. The injured dog’s owner should provide the insurance company with all the necessary information, including the names of the dogs involved, contact information for the attacking dog’s owner, and any evidence or documentation of the incident.

It is important to note that certain insurance policies may have breed restrictions or exclusions for “dangerous” dog breeds. In California, breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Rottweilers are often classified as dangerous dogs. If the attacking dog belongs to one of these breeds, the homeowner’s insurance coverage may be limited or denied. In such cases, seeking legal advice from a dog bite attorney can help explore other avenues for compensation.

Seeking Compensation for Damages

In dog-on-dog attack cases, the injured dog’s owner may be entitled to compensation for various damages. These can include:

Veterinary Bills: The cost of medical treatment for the injured dog, including surgeries, medications, and follow-up care.

Boarding Fees: If the injured dog requires extended care or recovery time at a boarding facility, the owner can seek reimbursement for these expenses.

Replacement Cost: In cases of fatal dog attacks, where the injured dog does not survive, the owner may be entitled to compensation for the replacement cost of the deceased dog.

To pursue compensation, the injured dog’s owner should gather all relevant documents, such as veterinary bills, boarding receipts, and any other evidence of financial losses. Consulting with a personal injury attorney specializing in dog bite cases can help determine the appropriate course of action and maximize the chances of receiving fair compensation.

Preventing Dog Attacks

Prevention is key when it comes to dog attacks. Dog owners should prioritize proper socialization and training for their dogs from an early age. This includes exposing them to different environments, people, and animals to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Additionally, dog owners should obey leash laws and keep their dogs under control when in public spaces.

Recognizing the warning signs of aggression in dogs is also crucial. Some common signs include growling, snarling, raised hackles, stiff body posture, and intense staring. If any of these signs are observed, it is important to remove the dog from the situation and seek professional help from a dog trainer or behaviorist.

The Emotional Impact of Dog-on-Dog Attacks

Dog-on-dog attacks not only cause physical harm but can also have a lasting emotional impact on both the injured dog and its owner. Dogs may experience trauma and exhibit changes in behavior, such as fear, anxiety, and aggression. It is essential for the owner to provide support and reassurance to their dog during the recovery process.

For the owner, witnessing their beloved pet being attacked can be a traumatic experience. It is important for them to seek emotional support and consider therapy or counseling if needed. Connecting with support groups or online communities for dog owners who have experienced similar incidents can also provide valuable guidance and understanding.


Dog-on-dog attacks can have severe consequences for both the injured dog and its owner. In California, dog owners are held accountable for the actions of their pets, and liability extends to dog-on-dog attacks. Proving negligence on the part of the owner can strengthen the injured dog owner’s case and potentially lead to additional damages. Seeking compensation for veterinary bills, boarding fees, and other related expenses is possible through contacting an experienced attorney.

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