When Does A Dog Bite Amount To Criminal Charges In California?

December 1, 2018
On behalf of The Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg Posted in Dog Bite

While the vast majority of dog bites fall under the category of California civil law, there are cases where the owner of the dog that has bitten or attacked another person can face criminal charges.

Even without facing criminal charges, a California dog owner can get in serious trouble with the law if his or her dog caused permanent scarring, disfiguration, amputation, or other serious bodily injuries to another person.

Our Los Angeles dog bites attorney at Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg says that criminal charges can be filed by state officials in California in addition to a civil lawsuit from the injured victim.

When dog owners face criminal charges after a dog bite in California

So in which circumstances are dog bites handled by state officials who can proceed with charging a dog owner with a criminal offense? Criminal charges can be filed against a dog owner only if the victim or his/her experienced dog bites attorney in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California reports the incident to the police.

After the dog attack has been reported to local authorities, state officials are notified that this particular dog could be dangerous or vicious. If the dog has been involved in prior incidents in which it harmed another person or animal, the owner of the dog may be charged with a criminal offense. But it is not that simple.

California’s legal definition of a ‘dangerous’ dog

In order to file criminal charges against a dog owner whose dog has bitten or attacked another person, that dog must meet California’s legal definition of a “dangerous” or “vicious” dog.

Under California law, a dangerous dog is a dog that has been involved in at least two incidents in the last three years in which it acted in an aggressive manner that caused another person to defend himself or herself against that dog (but only as long as that dog was not on its own property in those incidents).

Also, if the dog bit or otherwise caused injury to another person without being provoked by the victim, the dog can be considered “dangerous” regardless of the severity of the victim’s injury.

In addition to that, a dog can be deemed “dangerous” if it killed, bit, or injured another domestic animal at least twice in the last three years as long as it was not on its own property.

California’s legal definition of a ‘vicious’ dog

While many people in California think that a “dangerous” and “vicious” dog is the same thing, these two words actually have two completely different legal definitions.

Under California law, a “vicious” dog is a dog owned by a person with a conviction of an offense related to dogfighting, if the dog was aggressive or caused serious injury to another person or killed another person, or the dog was previously listed as “dangerous” but the owner failed to follow the precautions to prevent further incidents.

When a dog bite can amount to criminal charges

Our Los Angeles dog bites attorney at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg explains that dog owners in California may face criminal charges in the following situation:

  • Their dog, which was previously listed as dangerous or vicious, roams free;
  • The dog owner fails to provide reasonable care to restrain the dangerous or vicious dog; and
  • The dog causes serious injury or kills a person who took reasonable steps to protect himself or herself.

Consult with our lawyers at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to determine whether or not criminal charges will be filed in your particular case. Call our offices at 310-997-0904 for a free case evaluation today.


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