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Facts About Dog Bites

People own dogs for many reasons–for the unconditional love and companionship they provide; to assist with medical conditions such as depression, diabetes, seizures or Alzheimer’s; or to help reduce stress and provide comfort in institutional settings like hospitals and nursing homes. Dogs can enrich the lives of their owners and provide emotional support for the entire household.

But owning a dog comes with responsibilities—they need to be properly cared for, taken for walks or runs, and their vaccinations must be kept up-to-date. By providing proper care and attention, pet owners can make sure their dogs grow up to be healthy and well socialized, which can make a difference between raising a happy, socially adaptable animal or one that grows up to be aggressive and dangerous.

Arizona law about dog bites

If you’re a dog owner in Arizona, you should be aware of a few facts about dog bites:

  1. You, or the person responsible for the dog at the time the damages were inflicted, are strictly responsible for any injury or damage caused by your dog;
  2. You may be strictly liable if your dog bites someone, even if the dog is known to be harmless and has never before been aggressive or bitten anyone;
  3. If your dog bites someone, you may have a defense if you can prove the person who was bitten had been provoking the dog or was trespassing on your private property.

Laws pertaining to dogs can get complicated fast

Consider this example. You own a dog that’s friendly, docile, and has never bitten anyone. Your brother goes over for a visit, and when he leaves, he takes your dog with him. Arriving home, he takes your dog for a walk. The dog gets loose and attacks a dog belonging to a neighbor. As your brother and his neighbor attempt to separate the dogs, your dog bites the neighbor.

Are you, the owner of the dog, liable for the dog bite injury or does it fall on your brother? Supposing your dog is known to be perfectly friendly and has never before bitten anyone, is that a defense? Under Arizona law, you can be held responsible anyway.

Arizona dog bite law clearly states: “Injury to any person or damage to any property by a dog while at large shall be the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.” (Arizona Revised Statutes 11-1020)

Notice the all-inclusive part that says “the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.” So both you and your brother could be held liable unless you did not give him permission to take your dog–then all liability would fall on him.

However, because the injury to the neighbor happened while he was in the process of trying the separate the dogs, a jury could decide that in doing so, the neighbor was provoking the dog. Provocation is one of only three possible defenses in an Arizona dog bite case. Arizona law says “Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.” (Arizona Revised Statues 11-1027)

Two other possible defenses to a dog bite could prevail:

1. If the dog was a military or police dog

2. If the person was bitten while trespassing on private property.

Any dog is capable of biting 

Even if your dog has never shown a trace of hostility and has never before bitten anyone, that is not a defense. Arizona is not one of the states that provides for “one free bite,” where you might be exempt from liability the first time your dog bites someone.

For more information about Arizona laws pertaining to dog bites take a look at the Arizona Revised Statutes Section 11-1001 through 11-1029, or contact our office to talk to one of our experienced dog bite attorneys.