Liability Guide

Note: this Liability Guide is for cases where a dog injured another dog. If someone or something other than a dog injured your dog, then you must read Volume 1: Text. There is no Guide for those situations because they present too many variables!

Was there a violation of a leash law (or similar law) where the accident happened?

If the accident happened in a dog park, the answer is “no.”

If the accident was not in a dog park, you must determine whether either dog owner violated a “leash law,” “at large law” or other law having to do with animal control.

What is a “leash law,” you ask? Many cities and counties have laws that require a dog to be on a leash when it is off the property of its owner (and sometimes even when on it’s owner’s property).

What is an “at large law,” you want to know? It is a prohibition against a dog roaming off its owner’s property.

Other laws prohibit dogs from trespassing, require dog owners to have certain kinds of fences, and may impose special limitations on electronic containment systems (like “electric fences”).

You will need to find out whether there was a violation of any such law where the accident happened. A violation constitutes “negligence per se,” which is a variety of negligence. For the purpose of determining civil liability, therefore, disobeying such a law is the same thing as being negligent.

It would be impossible to put a copy of every municipal code and county code in this work. Therefore, please use one of the following methods to find the law yourself:

  • The best websites for municipal and county codes are MuniCode, GeneralCode and for California, the Institute of Governmental Studies. Another source would be your city’s website, if there is one, and your county’s website, if there is one. You also can contact your city clerk and county clerk, and ask whether the codes are online; if so, get the URLs (i.e., the online addresses).
  • Contact your city clerk and ask for a written copy of the dog laws of the city and county where the accident happened. If the city clerk does not have the county code, then ask the county clerk.
  • Go to the nearest library or law library, and ask the reference librarian to (a) show you the municipal code of your city, (b) show you the county code of your county, and (c) help you find the dog laws in the city code and the county code.

If the other dog owner was in violation of one of these laws, note it in the Liability section of the Case Brief Worksheet. You will see blanks; just fill them in.

If you were in violation of one of these laws, that can be used against you. Write it in the Defenses section of the Case Brief Worksheet.

Proceed to the next question.