San Diego County Dog Bite Risk Influences Dog Beach Debate

Many local residents have added a pet to their homes, with dogs increasing in popularity
across our area. Most families ensure that their animals do not pose risks to others and takes steps to prevent dog bites. However, even with precautions, San Diego dog bites continue to strike with surprisingly frequency. When that happens it is vital that the victims be compensated for the losses they suffer as a result of the accident.

In California, as in many other states, dog owners are strictly liable for the actions of their animals. This is true even if the animal had no previous history of bites and regardless of whether the owner was aware that the dog posed a bite risk. Strict liability is a legal principle that applies in injury cases like this and affects the requirements that must be met for a victim to recover for their losses following an injury.

In a regular “negligence” case a plaintiff must show that another person owed them a duty, and that they duty was breached causing injury. In those cases, therefore, a plaintiff must specifically show that the other person acted in an unreasonable way. Strict liability cases are a bit different. In these cases the plaintiff generally does not have to specifically show that the other person acted unreasonably. In these cases, the other party is required as a matter of law to pay for the losses caused by the conduct whether reasonably tried to prevent the bite or not. Therefore, because California dog bite lawsuits are considered strict liability cases, the individual who is bitten can almost always recover damages for the losses they suffer. By providing for this form of remedy for dog bite victims, the state has logically decided that paying for a dog bite is a responsibility of a dog owner, no matter what the circumstances.

The risk of dog bites continues to affect many local decisions in our area. For example, the Imperial Beach Patch reported late last month on disagreement about a proposed leash-free dog beach. Some opposed to the proposal told stories about encounters with dangerous dogs on the beach leading to broken bones, bruises, and bites—often caused by irresponsible dog owners. Opponents to the proposal explained that the San Diego County Department of Animal Services reports that about 2,700 San Diego dog bites strike each year. They argue that unleashing animals on a popular beach area would create too much risk.

However, others argue that the owners of the thousands of licensed dogs and their animals in the area need a place to interact without the need to be on a leash. The dog beach proponents suggest that the animals are rarely aggressive when at a dog beach playing with one another. They believe that a trial period should at least be allowed so that the feasibility of the beach option can be evaluated.

It is important for all sides of this issue to be given the platform to explain their position. Whatever the city council decides on the dog beach issue, however, our San Diego dog bite attorney at the Walton Law Firm encourages all area dog bite victims to visit our office to learn about their legal rights. All those hurt by animal bites can receive compensation for medical expenses and other damages following one of these attacks.

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