Can my dog be put to sleep for nipping at a jogger?

by Jasmine
(San Diego, CA, USA)

One night, my sister and I were walking our two pet dogs. Some person jogged passed us from behind, and I think my dog saw her as a threat so he nipped her sweatpants. I quickly pulled him away to keep him from pursuing her.

We had no idea she was behind us, and I would think she'd be more cautious running past a person with a dog on leash, but anyway, she proceeded to curse in front of my 12 year old sister and me, spewing statements that she can sue us and put our dog to sleep.

That's absolutely terrifying. My dog is not the most friendly to strangers, so we keep him away from people as much as possible, but we just couldn't avoid that person who seemed to come out of nowhere behind us. She was not punctured in any way, but she was angered.

Is it possible for her to indeed file a claim against us and put our dog to sleep? Can anyone have our dog put to sleep if he attacked them? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Can my dog be put to sleep for nipping at a jogger?":

Jasmine (San Diego, CA, USA):

It is unlikely your dog will be "put down" for biting the jogger. To put a dog down requires a California Court Order. Court orders to destroy a dog are only issued when a dog has brutally attacked a person, and there is a likelihood the dog will do so again.

The controlling statute for dog owner liability can be found in California Civil Code Section 3342. It reads in part as follows:

"(a) 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."

California has a "strict liability" rule. Under this rule, the jogger would not have to prove you were negligent in the handling of your dog. You would be immediately assumed to have been liable when your dog bit the jogger.

You will have the burden to prove you should not be liable for the actions of your dog. One defense might be the dog was provoked into biting by the jogger. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that occurred.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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