Am I Liable If My Dog Bites Another Person?

arizona dog bite law - dog biting on a stick

Am I Liable If My Dog Bites Another Person?

Although dogs may be man’s best friend, they are still animals, and will sometimes act in an unexpected way. For example, a non-aggressive dog can suddenly growl and snap at a person if they feel stressed or threatened. And, if a dog bites and injures another person, their owner is liable for any damages under the Arizona dog bite law. 

What is the Arizona dog bite law?   

Arizona statute ARS 11-1025 makes dog owners liable for any injuries resulting from their dog biting another person. The attack needs to have occurred either in a public place, like a public park or while walking down the street, or on private property where the victim had legally been invited. 

Under ARS 11-1025, a dog owner does not even have to know their dog bit someone to be held accountable for its actions. And, unlike some other states, Arizona does not have a “one free bite” rule for dogs. Even if this is the first time a dog has bitten someone, the owner is still held liable for any damages. 

It’s also important to note that if an animal caretaker, such as a dog walker, is with the dog when the bite attack occurs, both the caretaker and the dog’s owner may be liable for any harm caused. 

What defenses do dog owners have?    

Arizona residents have up to one year to report a dog bite injury. There are a few ways that a dog owner can defend a charge and not be held liable. The victim was trespassing or if the dog was provoked, you will not be held responsible.

Lawful Presence on Private Property

If a lawyer can prove the dog bite victim was trespassing on private property, the dog owner could be found not liable for injuries. Arizona statute ARS 11-1026 defines “lawful presence” on private property as a person who is an invited guest or a person engaging in “a duty imposed…by the law of the state or United States” such as a mail carrier. 

Reasonable Provocation

Arizona statute ARS 11-1027 states if a dog owner proves the dog bite victim provoked the animal into attacking, the owner would no longer be liable for damages. The provoking action would need to be enough that a reasonable person would expect the dog to attack because of it. 

For example, if a man runs towards you and your dog while yelling loudly and waving what looks to be a weapon in his hand, your dog might expect an attack. This causes your dog to become defensive and upset—when the man gets too close, the dog lashes out and bites him on the hand. In this case, a reasonable person would expect the man’s provoking actions to elicit a defensive response from the dog. 

Understanding the Arizona Dog Bite Law 

Dog bite incidents are traumatic for both the victim and the dog owner. No one ever wants to think their four-legged companion could hurt another person. But, depending on the nature of the attack, a dog owner may find themselves going to court and possibly paying large amounts of medical fees. 

If you’re facing charges under the dog bite laws in Arizona, it’s important to have a defense lawyer on your side that understands the laws and can support your case. Contact Coolidge Law Firm today to schedule a consultation in our Phoenix or Chandler offices. 

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash