I've read that a dog owner is strictly liable for their dog's actions--if it was on a leash or not. Does a person with dogs that are on a leash, but are large and powerful, and their owner has proven in several incidents to be unwilling and unable to control them, have responsibility for them killing or injuring dogs that are off leash, but in a public area, that come near them? If the local agency responsible deems them dangerous, could the dogs be legally taken from this incompetent (and homeless) owner?
In the circumstance you describe, (1) the owner AND the handler (if different) are both liable for any harm the dogs wrongly cause; and (2) dogs deemed potentially dangerous or vicious by a competent authority (e.g. Animal Control) using a proper process can be taken away from the owner, under some circumstances. If dogs are attacked, and the attack was not provoked by their owner/handler, they can defend themselves and are unlikely to be deemed potentially dangerous. Dogs that initiate an attack that causes significant harm are likely to be deemed potentially dangerous or vicious.
For details, see California Food and Agriculture Code section 31601 and following. The hearing procedure is specified in section 31621 and following. If you're an interested party, consider looking for an attorney with dog bite and/or dangerous dog hearing experience in the county where the attack(s) occurred, for more specific guidance.
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