Reporting a Dog Bite - What Happens Next

Dog bite bleeding in a person's arm with a dog blurred in the background.

Reporting a Dog Bite - What Happens Next

Dogs are a man's best friend anywhere in the world, but it's important to acknowledge the difference in their nature. In the case of dog bites, it's a serious issue in California that is required by law to be reported to the San Diego County Animal Control Department. With at least 2,500 dog bite investigations every year, dog bites are subject to the owner's civil and criminal liability, which is why bites should always come after an official report.

What California Law Requires Doctors to Report Dog Bites?

Under the 17 California Code of Regulations2606, the law states that doctors and all other people are obligated to report dog bites immediately in an effort to prevent the spread of rabies. However, this regulation only applies if the dog bite happens in a "rabies area."

What is California's Rabies Area?

"Rabies area" is an area where the State of California has confirmed a case of rabies. With that in mind, it is up to the Director of the State Department of Health Services to assign a certain county as a rabies area, though keep in mind that all 58 counties in California have been declared a rabies area since 1987.

What Counts as a Dog "Bite" Under California Law?

Contrary to its moniker, a dog bite will be considered as such even if the bite does not penetrate the skin and draw blood. For instance, a case in California involved a worker falling from his ladder after a dog bites the cuffs of his pants, causing him to fall and sustain injuries.

With that in mind, California laws concluded that the owner of the dog is subject to liabilities under section 3342.

What is Section 3342?

Section 3342 of the Civil Code defines the liability of California dog owners and the scope of their dog's liability (i.e. how far the liability will extend). Under this section, dog owners are liable for the following:

(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.

A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

(b) Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

(1) In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity.

(2) In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.

(3) In the execution of a warrant.

(4) In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.

(d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or military work enumerated in subdivision (b).

(Amended by Stats. 1988, Ch. 298, Sec. 1.)

How to Make a Dog Bite Report in California?

While all kinds of dog bites must be reported to the local health department, keep in mind that different counties have their own reporting process. However, there are certain information and other factors in common, such as the following details:

●    Time and place of the incident;

●    Name and contact information of the person who was bitten;

●    Contact information for the victim’s parent or guardian, if the victim was under 18-years-old;

●    Name and contact information of the dog owner;

●    Description of the dog, including the breed;

●    Location and description of the wound;

●    Treatment information for the bite, including how many stitches were needed to close it, and;

●    The name and contact information of the reporting doctor.

Some examples of counties that need to follow this procedure include Alameda County, Fresno County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, San Francisco County, Santa Barbara County, and Santa Clara County.

What to Do After a Dog Bite in California

When reporting a dog bite in California, it’s important to provide as much detail as possible. This will hold the dog owner responsible for the incident and make for a better understanding between you and the victim, so be sure to do the following:

1. Take Photos of the Injury

Whether it's a scratch or something more severe, photo documentation can be very useful in the following steps in order to have the dog owner reimburse the victim.

2. Collect the Dog Owner's Information

If you can, get a hold of the dog owner and ask him/her for all the information possible, including the dog breed and owner's name. You can also ask for the name and contact of the victim's parents if the victim was under 18-years-old, which is not a requirement but may come in handy when dealing with the insurance company.

3. Seek Medical Treatment Immediately

Wounds can become infected, or lead to rabies in worst-case scenarios, so it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately. If you don’t have a preferred doctor or hospital, contact the county medical and/or public health department to see if they have any recommendations.

The Bottom Line: The Importance of Knowing Dog Bite Laws in California

While California has some of the most stringent dog laws in the country, it is important to be extra cautious. Whether you’re a dog owner or not, everyone should know how to handle dog bites and how to make a report to the San Diego County Animal Control Department.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a dog bite or has questions about dog bite laws in California, contact a dog bite attorney in California to see if you have a case.

Are You Looking for Dog Bite Injuries Lawyer in Los Angeles?

If you or someone you know has been involved in a dog bite incident, contact our experienced and caring dog bite lawyers for a consultation. We're a Los Angeles law firm that can walk you through the entire process and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.

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