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Am i liable for my dog biting another dog on a walk?

Fullerton, CA |

i was walking my 4-yr old 100 lb bull mastiff around my neighborhood. he is very timid and has no history of attacking people or other dogs.
we walked by many people and dogs in the 25 minute walk. at the end, we walked past 2 ladies and their 20 lb dog who began to bark at my dog. we walked off the sidewalk and into the street to avoid them at which time my dog growled back, somehow got out of his leash and went to the other dog and bit him on the neck. the owner pulled out pepper spray and sprayed me and both dogs. then she took her dog to the vet and sent me a bill for $500 for x-rays. she also said she has 2 more appointments that i will have to pay.

am i liable to pay this?

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Attorney answers 5


You have an interesting situation.

Yes, you are probably liable for your dog damaging the other dog, just make sure the bills are reasonable - no "counseling" for depression bills.

But, you also have a potential claim against her for spraying you with pepper spray - if it wasn't in self-defense, it's assault and battery potentially.

Because of the 2nd action. I'd consider writing her a letter saying you two will call it even.

Good luck with your situation.

Take Note: Common Sense and this environment (the internet) require me to remind everyone that this answer isn't legal advice, and shouldn't be relied upon. Remember-every state has different laws, rules and regulations and each person's situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a thorough evaluation and review of all the facts and documents at issue, including potential investigation. By answering or posting information here, it doesn't create an attorney-client relationship.

Matthew Williamson


Without knowing more facts I cannot tell you if you are liable or not. However, some general observations that should help you decide how to handle your situation. As a general rule, dog owners are liable if their dog bites a person or other animal if it occurs in public (or the victim is legally on the owners property). A possible defense to a dog bite is if the biting dog was provoked.

Owners have to keep their dogs under control at all times in public. I agree with you that many Mastiffs are very timid (but not all of them). However, your dog could be timid with people, but dog aggressive. While the smaller dog barked first, your dog is the one that escaped from your leash, presumably did not listen to your commands to stop, and bit another dog. When you have a 100 lb dog, you have a responsibility to have the dog well trained, exercised, and under your control at all times.

Medical bills must be reasonable and related to be compensable. A possible defense to payment of medical bills is if the bills are not reasonable or related.

The small dogs owner could try to have your dog declared vicious, or dangerous, and try to have the dog put down. You do not want this. For that reason, I suggest you be nice, and try to work something out.

Good luck.

Adam Sorrells, Esq.
Chico Personal Injury Lawyer
Law Offices of Adam Sorrells

Important disclaimer: The following was not legal advice, and cannot be relied on. It was for informational purposes only. You need to seek the services of an attorney immediately.


You are probably liable because I don't think another dog barking at your dog rises to the level of "provocation" needed to raise that defense.

Require that she give you copies of the actual vet bills - you don't want her padding the bill. You should also call your homeowner's insurance company and let them know about the incident in case the other dog owner files a claim.

In the future, you should walk your dog in a harness since they are harder to a dog to get out of.

Good luck.


You should report this incident to your homeowners or renters insurance company and request they appoint counsel to explain to you if there is liability for this dog bite incident.


Yes. Look at California Code section 3342 which states that, “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.” Animals are considered property,but if your dog was responsible for the damage, you then you are responsible.

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