Dog Bite Laws Arizona

Dog bite laws as they apply to the state of Arizona

Arizona dog bite laws dictate that if a dog bites a person when in public or when the victim is lawfully on private property, then the owner of the offending pooch is liable for damages suffered by the victim.

This law applies regardless of the dog’s former viciousness or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s brutishness.

However, Arizona Code § 11-1020 and § 11-1025 say that victims may not bring an action for damages against any governmental agency using a dog in police or military work if the bite occurred because of provocation or harassment.

Summarized, Arizona dog bite laws state:

  • The victim must prove that the dog was directly responsible for the bite.
  • If the injury did not result from a bite, the victim must show that the owner failed to act reasonably to prevent the dog from causing the injury.
  • The victim must also prove that the bite or injury he/she suffered occurred while in a public place or lawfully on private property.

Lawful presence on private property refers to any scenario where a person is lawfully in or on private property.  For example, an invitee, guest, mail carrier, and so on.

What Laws Protect Dog Bite Victims In Arizona?

Arizona “strict liability” dog bite laws

Under Arizona’s strict liability laws, the owner of a dog that bites someone is liable for damages if the factors listed above exist.  That means if you invite someone to your home and he or she gets bit or injured by any animal on your property.  Then you may have to compensate that person for any injuries suffered, pain and suffering endured, lost wages, hospital bills, and so on.  This tells you that neglect can be costly in the state.

To espouse, strict liability is different from the “lone bite rule” in that, in states that practice strict liability.  The victim may not have to prove that the owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensities or that he/she should have known of the dog’s viciousness.

This creates two avenues for victims to petition for compensation:

Strict liability claim

To file a liability claim, the victim need only prove that the bite occurred and that the owner was responsible.  These laws exist to discourage reckless behavior that may result in needless loss.  Thus, the guidelines require dog owners to take every possible action to prevent injury or property damage.

What to remember:

  • Arizona imposes strict liability on the owner even if the dog has never bitten anyone before (no free bites).
  • If a victim is bitten by a stolen dog, then the owner is not liable for such injury.
  • If the victim provokes or torments the dog leading to a bite, the law will not hold the owner liable for the actions of the victim.
  • The law may hold you responsible for the actions of your dog while in public.
  • Both a dog walker and dog owner may be liable.

Negligence claim

The second way to claim compensation for a bite or injury is a negligence claim. There are two options here:

  • Contributory Negligence
  • Comparative Negligence

Contributory negligence occurs when the victim fails to act prudently contributing to his/her injury.  Remember, contributory negligence may act as a partial defense.  For example, if the victim entered the dog’s enclosure or provoked the attack.  The court may apportion loss between the parties.

Comparative negligence, on the other hand, refers to a scenario where both parties acted negligently.

What is important to remember is that contributory negligence reduces the number of damages the victim may recover.

What to remember:

  • Failure to comply with Arizona’s dangerous dog confinement rules is a form of negligence.
  • Bringing a dangerous dog to a public place, breaking leash laws, and failing to warn visitors or neighbors of a dangerous dog is negligence.

Being that the burden of proof is on the victim, it is important to take note of any negligence exhibited by the owner.  The reason for that is the victim also has the option to seek punitive damages if he or she can prove that the dog owner was reckless or intentionally and wantonly caused injury or property damage.

Remember, any dog owner in Arizona that allows a dog to “run at large” is strictly liable for any injury or damage that may result from the dog’s activities.

What is a dangerous dog? And do you have to report a dog bite in Arizona?

Arizona Code §11-1014.01 defines dangerous dogs as, “any dog that has bitten a person or domestic animal without provocation or that has a known history of attacking persons or domestic animals without provocation”.

The statute also defines “reasonable care” as “the degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise in the same or similar circumstances”.

Primarily what this statute tells you is that dog owners should confine their pooch within an enclosed area, and that they must control the animal in a manner that prevents it from harming a person or causing damage.

What to remember:

  • There is no law against dangerous dog breeds in the state.
  • Arizona dog bite laws requires that all dog bite victims report the incident to MCACC (Maricopa County Animal Care and Control).
  • After a dog bites a victim, MCACC may remove the dog from the owner’s custody for 10 days or order the owner to quarantine the dog as a rabies precaution.
  • According to Fabian’s law, if your dog attacks another pet, you may face Class 1 misdemeanor charges.  The punishment for said charge is up to 6 months in prison and or a $2500 fine.
  • Knowingly and intentionally using your dog as a weapon is a class 3 felony offense, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 3.5 years.

Will my dog be put down for biting someone in Arizona?

In Arizona, animal control only puts down your dog if it has a repeated history of attacks or if the dog has rabies. But this rarely happens.

What this means is if the bite results in minor injuries, then it is highly unlikely that animal control will put down the dog.  However, after the first bite, animal control will require the owner to confine the dog or require that you put a muzzle on it when in contact with other animals or humans.

What happens if a dog bites a child in Arizona?

When a dog bites a child in Arizona, the dog’s owner is only liable for damages if the victim’s lawyer or guardians can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the owner was negligent.

For example, did the owner do anything to restrain the dog?  Was the dog leashed at the time of the bite?

Was the bite the result of the child’s actions or the owner’s negligence?

The answers to these questions determine who is liable, because under Arizona dog bite laws, suffering a bite is not sufficient reason to claim compensation.

So, as a dog owner, it is in your best interests to ensure that your dog poses no harm to the public. Thus, confine it, build a wall, or put it on a leash.

What if the victim of a dog bite was trespassing?

ARS 13-1502 defines trespassing as, “when a person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully on a piece of property after they have been requested to leave, or without the expressed permission of the owner, or in violation of a posted sign warning of Trespass”.

State law also says that “dangerous dog” owners must keep the animal enclosed or confined in a yard with a sign indicating the dog’s vicious propensities.

Remember, Arizona is a strict liability state meaning your dog’s bite history does not matter.  Therefore, put up a dangerous dog sign or a no-trespass sign if you have dogs.

Note: in some states, a Dangerous Dog Sign may be an admission by the owner of the dog’s viciousness.  So, choose wisely which sign to put up.

Our advice, a no-trespass sign lessens your liability because it makes the victim the criminal.

In general, the dog owner is not liable if the injury occurred while the victim was trespassing.

What legal defenses do dog owners have in Arizona?

Provocation and trespass are the best defenses because the victim must prove that-beyond a reasonable doubt-his/her actions did not cause the bite or that he/she was on the property legally.

If you have a no-trespass sign on your land, you may argue that it was the victim’s fault for not obeying the sign.  Also, the law will not hold you liable if the victim was on the property intending to commit criminal activity.

You may also argue that the victim’s provocative actions such as tormenting the dog, caused the bite.

Remember there are three elements in a provocation defense:

  • The provoking circumstances.
  • The dog’s loss of self-control resulting from the provocative act.
  • Whether the provocation could have caused other dogs to act similarly.

To prove trespass on the other hand the owner must show:

  • The victim entered negligently or intentionally into the property without consent.
  • The land or property belonged to another.

It is also worth noting that the owner may receive compensation for emotional distress, discomfort, or annoyance, and or loss of market value if he or she can prove that the victim was trespassing.

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