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Who is liable for dog bites in a dog park?

Dog parks are popular locations for pet owners who want to allow their dogs to socialize with other dogs or get some exercise off-leash. However, sometimes aggressive or fearful dogs can cause injuries to people and pets in dog parks.

Who is responsible when a dog bites in a dog park?

California law

Dog owners are strictly liable for injuries suffered by a person their dog bites in a public place or in a private place where the injured person is legally allowed to be per California Civil Code section 3342. The law does not require the owner of the biting dog to have had any previous reason to suspect the dog would bite. This law applies to any public dog park and any private dog park where the injured party was legally allowed to be on the property.

Assumed risk

Some parks may have signs posted that contain a waiver of liability. In these cases, the owners of biting dogs may attempt to claim they are not liable for the damages because the injured parties assumed the risk. Additionally, in leash-optional parks, owners are not considered negligent for having their dogs off-leash. However, they may be negligent if they bring fearful, poorly trained, aggressive or unsocialized dogs and fail to control them.

While negligent owners may still be liable for biting dogs in dog parks, there is an assumption of risk that may make recovering damages more difficult. For this reason, it is important to monitor your dog at all times and leave any park where dangerous dogs not under control.

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