A video that has made its way through social media of a San Diego police canine biting an unarmed man in handcuffs has caused outrage. The footage, posted by Facebook user Angel Nuñez, shows the dog latched on to the man’s arm for at least 30 seconds while one officer works to unlatch the animal’s jaw. However, two additional cops were holding the man who was being bitten. The victim could be seen screaming as he was being bitten.
The man was eventually arrested on suspicion of charges that include robbery, battery, and being under the influence of drugs. San Diego police claim that the use of the dog adhered to the department’s policy.
When Does a Dog Bite in California Reach Criminal Status?
California has strict dog bite laws that have huge consequences and liability for the owners of dogs that bite. By statute, the state is a strict liability state, meaning the owner of a dog strictly is liable for any dog bite from the moment that ownership begins—with some narrow exceptions, such as when the dog is provoked. See CA Civ. Code § 3342. This means that the owner of a “dangerous dog” can be sued for civil damages from the dog bite victim.
However, what most people do not know is that criminal charges can be filed as a consequence of a dog biting someone, in addition to a civil lawsuit. Specifically, California dog bites may fall under the category of criminal if the dog falls under the state’s legal definition of “dangerous” or “vicious.” California law defines a “dangerous” dog as one that has bitten someone without being provoked, killed or injured another animal at least twice within a three year period, or has acted aggressively towards a person (causing that person to defend him or herself) at least twice within a three-year period. Dogs that are owned by someone with a conviction of a dog-fighting charge may also be considered vicious.
Dangerous dogs that were not reasonably restrained that kill someone may cause their owners to face felony criminal charges. You may face a misdemeanor criminal offense if your dog was not reasonably restrained and it injured someone.
In sum, police can still charge you with criminal charges if your dog bites, injures, or kills someone. These criminal charges range from criminal negligence to second degree murder. Under state, county, and city laws, dog owners can still go to jail for having a dog that bites someone. Continue reading