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California dog bite laws: 4 facts for parents

Everyone knows that children do things that adults wouldn't. For example, a child might walk up to a strange animal to pet it without permission. Or, perhaps in a fit of aggression, a teen could kick or maim an animal. While most dog bites are not a result of mistreating an animal, this can play a role in whether you can seek compensation after your child suffers an attack. Here are four things you should know about dog bite laws in California.

1. Dog bite cases often require a hearing

When a dog bites, the owner is liable most of the time, but that person still has a right to defend the actions of the animal in court. Hearings only take place if the law enforcement officer or animal control officer involved in the case believes that the dog is particularly dangerous. He or she may impound the animal until the hearing. Hearings take place within 10 working days of serving the notice to the owner of the dog.

2. The dogs won't necessarily be seized

You may want the dog taken away, but that doesn't always happen. If the animal control officers or law enforcement officers don't believe the dog is a danger to the public, then they may choose not to impound the animal. However, if the dog does show that it is dangerous or vicious, it's impounded immediately. For impounding, it is possible for the chief animal control officer to allow the animal to go to an approved veterinarian facility or a local kennel at the owner's expense.

3. Provoking a dog could result in a loss of your rights

Trespassing, breaking into a home, tormenting or abusing an animal or attempting to commit a crime can make it so that you cannot make a claim. No dog is considered dangerous or vicious if an injury occurred because of an unjustified attack on that animal. Here's an example. Imagine a teenager went up to a pet Labrador at a neighbor's home. He strikes it viciously, injuring the dog. Initially, the dog might back away or try to escape, but when the teen continues, the dog bites him to make him stop. The teen had ample warning from the dog, including nipping, snapping and growling, but he did not stop. The owner could argue that the dog would never have been vicious if treated correctly by the teen.

4. License and vaccination laws matter

If the owner does not have the dog properly vaccinated or licensed, he or she can face penalties in court. Additionally, victims of dog bites may need additional treatments, like those for rabies, which are costly and painful. The city or county can charge dangerous dog fees and licensing fees to owners who violate these laws, and victims may have additional medical bills or expenses to take with them to court.

These are just a few things to consider if you plan to file a lawsuit over a dog bite. Your attorney can help you understand your rights if you're not sure about the dog owner's liability in your case.

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