More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S., according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA). Those numbers are not likely to decrease, as dog ownership increased dramatically during the pandemic, as reported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Many people who are bitten by dogs wonder if the dog will be euthanized if the attack is reported. Dogs that bite may be euthanized in California, after a hearing, but only under any of the following circumstances:
The dog has rabies
The dog has previously bitten at least two people.
The dog has bitten and seriously injured at least one person and has been trained to fight or to attack people.
How Is a Hearing Initiated to Determine Whether a Dog Will Be Euthanized?
After a dog attack, a hearing can be initiated by the victim, a neighbor, an animal control officer, or a law enforcement officer. This is done by filing a complaint with local animal control arguing that the dog is dangerous and a threat to the public. The hearing is conducted in the county where the dog bit the victim. Dog owners are entitled to receive advance, written notice of the hearing, stating where, when, and why it will be held.
What Happens at the Hearing?
The hearing is conducted by an Animal Control Hearing Examiner. Evidence of the dog’s danger to the public is presented. The dog owner will also have an opportunity to defend the dog, arguing that the animal is not a threat to the public. Witnesses can be called by either side to testify as to the dog’s temperament. Animal control or the person filing the complaint must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the dog is dangerous and should be put to sleep. Evidence presented may pertain to:
Prior incidents of the dog attacking another person or animal
Severity and number of injuries inflicted by the dog
Whether the attack or bite was the result of provocation
Whether the animal was raised to be violent or as an attack dog
Aggressive or unpredictable characteristics shown toward people or other animals
How retrainable the dog is to alter its temperament
Owner’s skill in controlling the dog and preventing it from injuring others
If the dog is deemed a threat, it will be impounded and euthanized. If it is deemed not a threat, it will be released to its owners. The dog’s license may be revoked if the owners were negligent or suspended until they train it properly or take measures to control it.
Can Dog Bite Victims Choose Not to Have the Dog Put to Sleep?
A person who is bitten by a dog can file a complaint with animal control, but it is not up to the victim to decide whether or not the dog is euthanized. A dog with rabies will be put down. If the animal does not have rabies but has bitten at least two people or has seriously injured a person and was trained to fight or attack, its fate will be determined at the hearing.
How Can a Lawyer Help If You Have Been Bitten By a Dog?
California is a strict liability state for dog bites. If you have been bitten by a dog in public place or while lawfully present in a private place, including the property of the dog’s owner, the owner can be held liable for damages. Our San Diego dog bite attorneys at Eugene Bruno & Associates can help you pursue compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Contact us for a free consultation at (619) 209-6066.
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