This tragedy happens all to often. A family member; your pet is killed or maimed by a vicious dog. Its frustrating since there appears to be no justice. Animal control tells you there is nothing it can do. The vicious dog(s) are returned to their owner or never impounded and the threat continues.  Generally and there are exceptions but generally In the eyes of the law, your dog is property and any resulting money damages are insignificant. You may have children or babes and you are rightly concerned for their safety too. These are some suggestions.

  • The dog owners are tenants. You must notify in writing, return receipt requested the landlord/owner of the premises of the vicious dog(s) on their property. Enclose the animal control incident report, photos and evidence that the dogs are on their property and facts of vicious behavior. Once the landlord has actual knowledge that the dogs are on the premises and that they are vicious then they may have liability for any future event which results in damages. A responsible landlord will remedy the dangerous condition which means the tenants may be evicted or the vicious dogs will be removed. Recognize tenants usually have no insurance.
  • To determine who the landlord or owners are, check the recorder’s office, tax accessor’s office or engage a title company for a title search. Note, that the mailing address may be different than what you see on the title. Check the tax accessor’s records because the tax bill will be sent to their address. Also the landlord/owners may have another home in the county.
  • The owner of the premises may have an agent such as a management company or caretaker. You may impute actual knowledge to an owner through their agent.
  • There are laws where the Animal Control Authority may find a dog to be potentially dangerous or vicious. California has laws for this. These are quasi-criminal laws. Understand that a county or city may be civilly liable even though the quasi-criminal laws are not violated.
  • Write letters to the Animal Control Director, Mayor, Board of Supervisors, City Manager about your concerns, especially is there is a threat to a child. You should also notify local news media, since this is a public safety issue. Once a governmental entity has knowledge of a dangerous condition it has a duty to remedy it and in these unfortunate situations only the reality of a news story about officials doing nothing when the public safety is at stake will they act.
  • You always have the right to sue the dog owners, keepers, harborers in the courts for damages.
  • Be proactive and recognize a potential threat before you become a victim. Report to animal control in writing dogs that are off leash or not in control of their owners. We see many dogs attacks on  other dogs when its owner is walking it and a off lease dog attacks. Always report this in writing to the landlord of a tenant whose dogs are loose or where the dogs are on their premises and demonstrate a dangerous trait or propensity for viciousness. In many situations, only the threat of eviction to a tenant is the only means to remedy a dangerous condition.
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Bruce Thabit is the owner of DogBite.org and has counseled numerous dog bite victims and their families. A recognized authority on dog bite law. A skilled, knowledgeable, experienced civil litigator since 1988. Call toll free number for free consult: Telephone: 1-844-444-0449. info@dogbite.org
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