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My next door neighbor's dog bit and tore off my dog's leg

Yorba Linda, CA |

My next door neighbor's dog of pitbull breed, dug underneath the fence towards our backyard. My chiwawa saw the dog and ran towards it and barked at it. The pitbull reached out, grabbed my chiwawa, bit and tore off one of its legs. This all happened in front of me and my mother. We were shaken and extremely hurt by the incident. We got treatment for our dog, but it now only has 3 legs. Can I sue my neighbor for bills and pain and suffering it caused to me and my mother.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. You can sue the neighbor for your vet bills, but pain and suffering won't fly. Sorry to hear about your poor doggie. If you haven't already, you should report the incident to your local Animal Control.

    I am an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of California. Unless we have both signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not my client, and my discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of those who hold other opinions.

  2. A dog owner can be held “strictly liable” for dangerousness if he or she knew about their dog’s dangerous propensities to bite or attack, whether in anger or in play. They would also be considered negligent for a failure to confine and/or control his or her dog if either, they intentionally caused the dog to attack and bite, or were careless in failing to prevent the harm. Dog owners always have a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent the foreseeable risk of injury by their dog.

    Additionally, a dog owner is also liable under a theory called “negligence per se” if they violated a city, county, or state ordinance on animal control in allowing the incident to happen. The ordinance can set the standard of conduct defining what is reasonable in a negligence action if: 1) the violation was the cause of the injury, 2) the plaintiff was within the class of persons intended to be protected by the ordinance, and 3) the plaintiff’s injury was within the area of risk intended to be avoided by the ordinance.

    Owners are also entitled to be reimbursed for the total expenses incurred in repairing, not replacing, a damaged, as opposed to destroyed, animal. Most animals kept for companionship have no calculable market value beyond the subjective value of the animal to its owner, and that value arises purely as the result of their relationship and the length and strength of the owner's attachment to the animal. In that sense then, a household pet is not like other fungible or disposable property, intended solely to be used and replaced after it has outlived its usefulness. It is purely a matter of good sense that a defendant be required to “make good the injury done” as the result of their negligence by reimbursing the plaintiff for the necessary and reasonable expenses he or she incurred to restore the pet to its condition before the incident.

    Therefore, when an injured pet with no discernable market value is restored to its previous health, the measure of damages for tortuous damage to the pet as personal property may include, but is not limited to, the reasonable and customary cost of necessary veterinary care and treatment.

    I have extensive experience in every manner of animal law case imaginable, civil and criminal. I always promptly and thoroughly investigate each claim to assess fault and damages, and I possess a remarkable and comprehensive understanding of the various details of every state and federal law on animal related issues. Having handled tens of thousands of cases over 27 years as a trial lawyer, I am sensitive to the fact that those affected by animals are often burdened financially as well as physically and emotionally, and I will often provide free initial consultations to potential clients to determine what might best be done about a specific claim or case. Should you have experienced a serious legal issue due to the involvement of an animal, please give me a call at (503) 546-8052 or send me an e-mail at to discuss your rights and possible solutions for your problems.

  3. You cannot sue for emotional damages sustained by you as a result of a dog biting your dog. Take a look at Civil Code section 3342(a).

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