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My girlfriends dog was on a leash and bite another ladies pug dog. What vet bills are we liable for?

Redondo Beach, CA |

My girlfriend and i were walking her dog on a 6 foot leash with a choker chain. We stopped at a neighbors house to talk, her dog and i were on the neighbors driveway right next to the sidewalk. I had the dogs leash in my hand and the dog was sitting next to me. At this time another neighbor walking two dogs on leashes and pushing her childs stroller came up behind us. I never saw the lady and her dogs coming until her pug dog ran up to my girlfriends dog. My girlfriends dog then bite the small pug dog on the neck. I pulled my girlfriends dog away but a large wound was left on the small dog. The lady was walking her dogs on the sidewalk at the time and we were on a neighbors driveway. I had my girlfriends dog under control but never saw her coming. Are we liable for the vet bill?

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Attorney answers 3


I'd argue that you are not liable. Although the other dog was on a leash its owner obviously did not have proper control of the dog - if she had, the other dog would not have approached your dog and your dog would not have bitten it.

Has a report been made to animal control? Has she asked for payment of any vet bills? Will your neighbor corroborate your version of the events leading to the bite?

If we do not have a signed fee agreement I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.



We think a different neighbor called animal control. Not sure. The small dog owner asked us to pay half the vet bill which we half paid half that amount so far. So we have paid a quarter of the bill to date. The neighbor will corroborate our story. I was under the understanding that since they were on the sidewak and our dog bite theirs we were liable to pay for the vet bill. My girlfriends dog has a history of being aggressive but has never injured anyone. How would you proceed from here? Thanks so much!

Laura Mcfarland-Taylor

Laura Mcfarland-Taylor


I hope you had them sign a release stating that you would pay half of X bill and accept no further liability or claims for the incident. Paying half would have been my next suggestion - just to keep neighborhood peace. Neighbor issues can be a big drag and, right or wrong, sometimes just settling something to keep the peace is worth the cost. The fact that your GF's dog is known to be aggressive is a problem. Did AC make out a report? You may want to consider special training and possibly a muzzle. I have a dog that can be other dog aggressive, so I get it.

Keith G Langer

Keith G Langer


By all means, follow Attorney McFarland-Taylor's advice about obtaining a signed release in exchange for the payment.


That is a challenging fact-pattern. As you've described it, liability isn't clear. You could litigate it if forced, or you could attempt to arrive at a reasonably compromise to resolve the issue.


I do not practice in CA, but in WA. Here, I would advise you to wait to see how things develop. This incident could take several turns: (1) you may receive a citation for your dog biting another dog; (2) you may face administrative proceedings regarding your dog through animal control; (3) the woman could attempt to bring a civil claim against you.

Provocation is generally a key defense in these types of proceedings. You may have a provocation defense. I would consult an attorney in your area. This would give you some peace of mind and prepare you if any of these proceeding do take place.

This is not to be construed as legal advice. I do not have an attorney client relationship with you.

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