Does California have a "One-Bite Rule"?

No. While other states have a “one-bite rule,” California’s dog bite statute is a strict liability statute.  

 Section 3342 of the California Civil Code provides damages to a dog bite victim if he or she is bitten:

  1. In a public place or, 
  2. While lawfully on any property, including the property of the dog owner. [1]

In a one-bite rule jurisdiction, the owner must have notice of a dog's aggressive behavior to be liable for a victim's injury. 

But in California, the dog owner is strictly liable even if he or she didn't know the dog would act aggressively.  As such, the dog bite victim does not have to prove that the dog has a history of violent behavior to recover damages.

An exception is when the victim is someone who works with canines professionally. Under California's "Veterinarian's Rule," such a person "assumes the risk" of a dog bite unless the animal has a history of aggression.

Examples of people who assume the risk of bites include groomers, dog walkers, and kennel workers.

Note also that if a dog has bitten someone on two or more occasions or has been trained to attack someone, a concerned citizen or local government entity can petition the court to have the dog removed from the home or euthanized. 

Below, our California personal injury attorneys discuss the one-bite rule.   


1. What is the one-bite rule? 

The one bite rule provides that the owner must have notice of a dog's aggressive behavior to be liable for a victim's injury.

Example: Becky owns Parker the golden retriever. Parker occasionally snaps or growls at people who enter Becky's home. While hosting a brunch, Parker escapes from his crate and attacks one of Becky's guest. Becky is liable under the one-bite rule because she has notice of Parker's aggressive behavior.

Although Parker had not previously bitten anyone before the incident, Becky would still be liable. This is because she had previous knowledge that Parker snaps and growls at people who enter her home.  

2. Does California have a one-bite rule? 

No. California does not have a one-bite rule.  California's dog bite statute is a strict liability statute. Strict liability means that a dog owner is legally responsible for an injury even if he or she was not negligent.  The owner cannot escape liability for a dog bite because he or she was ignorant of the dog's aggressive or violent nature.

Example: Isabel owns Monty. Monty is a fun and friendly poodle.  Monty frequently roams around the neighborhood and plays with the neighborhood children. One day, Monty walks up to 9-year-old John who is playing at the park.  When John reaches down to pet Monty, Monty bites John.  

John only has to prove that:

  1. He was injured by Monty, and
  2. He was on public property (that is, that he was not trespassing).

If John proves these two elements, Isabel is financially responsible for all compensatory damages resulting from the dog bite. This is so even though Monty had never shown signs of aggression.

3. How does California handle a dog with a previous biting history? 

Dogs with a previous biting history can be taken away from its owner or euthanized following a hearing.  

California law imposes an extra duty of care on the dog's owner whose animal has a previous biting history or history of aggression.  The dog owner must take all reasonable steps to prevent people from being bitten. If the owner fails to take reasonable steps to protect others, any government entity or person, including a neighbor or a friend, can petition the court to euthanize the dog. [2]

A concerned citizen or local government can bring suit for such a hearing against an owner when:

  • The animal has bitten people two times or more, or
  • A dog that was trained to fight, attack, or kill bites a person just once and causes substantial physical injury.  [3]

Injured by a dog in California? Call us for help...

california personal injury attorneys dog bites one  bite rule
Call us at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you love was the victim of a dog bite, we invite you to contact our California dog-bite attorneys for a free consultation. 

Call us at (855) LAWFIRM to discuss your case in confidence with an experienced California injury lawyer.

We have offices throughout California, including in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside Counties, as well as Central and Northern California.

We may also be able to help if you were bitten by a dog in Nevada.


Legal References:

  1. California Civil Code § 3342
  2. California Civil Code § 3342.5
  3. California Civil Code § 3342.5

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