Dog Bites

California is one of the states that has a dog bite statute. See California Civil Code section 3342. A dog bite statute is a law that repudiates in whole or part the common law's requirement of "scienter" (i.e., knowledge on the part of the defendant that the animal had previously injured a person in the same manner, such as by a bite). A dog bite statute is less inclusive than a dog liability law, which is a statute that imposes liability for any injury inflicted by a dog, whether caused by biting, tripping, or any other conduct.

Here is the text of the statute:

3342. (a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered
by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or
lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of
the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's
knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the
private property of such owner within the meaning of this section
when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed
upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal
regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon
the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
(b) Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an
action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency
using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred
while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or
provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the
(1) In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee
has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect's involvement in criminal
(2) In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.
(3) In the execution of a warrant.
(4) In the defense of a peace officer or another person.
(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim
of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor
suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that
prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.
(d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency
using a dog in military or police work has adopted a written policy
on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or
military work enumerated in subdivision (b).