Visitor Question

My dog bit our dog sitter when she tried to break up a dog fight…

Submitted By: Andrea (California)

A neighbor used to take care of my dog regularly and sometimes took him to her place for that. She also takes care of her landlord’s dog living in the same building, and those two dogs had a jealousy fight early on, after which my dog was always defensive around her landlord’s dog.

On one occasion, both dogs happened to be out in the dog sitter/landlord’s yard because the landlord didn’t let our dog sitter know that she was sending her dog outside at an unusual time. The two dogs got into a fight (started by my dog according to the dog sitter) and at some point my dog bit the dog sitter, who is now asking us for a lot of compensation.

During the fight, the dog sitter separated the two dogs by holding on to my dog’s hind legs. This is a technique she claims to have seen somewhere on-line.

I had told her several times before this incident that if there ever was a dog fight she should use a natural mosquito repellant spray in my dog’s face, which was recommended to me by a dog behavior expert as a harmless but effective method that does not put people at risk when trying to separate dogs. I provided the spray.

My dog bit the dog sitter when she continued holding on to his hind legs while the other dog charged directly at him! I’m furious that she put my dog into such a terrifying situation! But she claims that she has absolutely no responsibility for her own injuries, and that I must pay for her medical costs and other expenses because I’m the owner.

I’m researching the law (we’re in California) and would appreciate any help. I always felt I should help my dog sitter cover her expenses out of care and kindness, but I don’t agree that I bear total responsibility for this incident since she did not follow my instructions, and the incident happened while my dog was in her care.

I’m also low-income right now due to recent unemployment and current re-training, and I can’t possibly afford what she is asking for.

Is she right that I’m 100% liable for this? Can she demand whatever amount of compensation she wants to? How do I defend against this? Thanks for any information you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Andrea,

Unfortunately, your dog sitter likely has a legitimate claim against you for her injuries. From the facts you present, the dogfight happened rather suddenly. In the “heat of the battle” your dog sitter reacted in the manner in which she thought appropriate to end the fight. The sitter was not under any legal obligation to use the technique you instructed her to use.

The dog sitter’s claim is further strengthened by your own apparent negligence in allowing your dog to be at the sitter’s home knowing the two dogs previously engaged in a fight of some kid.

You might speak with her and ask for a payment plan. If you can’t afford to pay her medical bills in full because of your low income, there’s not a whole lot the sitter can do. She can either accept your payment plane or take you to court. Because it is likely the sitter would prevail, you would also be liable for her filing fees and court costs.

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

Best of luck,

Published: January 29, 2015

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