Getting attacked or bitten by a stray dog might be the last thing you expect when walking around your neighborhood in Phoenix. Unfortunately, this is an unpredictable incident that can occur at any given time – and result in traumatic and even life-threatening injuries. If you get bitten by someone else’s dog in Arizona, the dog owner will be strictly liable for your injuries. However, owner liability may not be an option when attacked by a stray dog.
Most states either use a strict liability law or a one-bite rule when determining liability, or financial responsibility, for a dog bite. A strict liability law means that the owner or controller of the animal will be responsible for the attack, regardless of whether or not the owner was negligent. A one-bite state means that an owner will only be held liable if he or she knew or had reason to know that the dog might attack or exhibit vicious propensities (e.g., the dog had bitten someone previously) yet failed to prevent a subsequent attack.
Under Arizona Revised Statute 11-1025, the owner of a dog that bites a person is strictly liable for damages suffered by the victim, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of dangerous dog behaviors. This rule applies as long as the victim was in a public place or lawfully on private property. When a pet owner is held liable for a dog bite injury, his or her homeowners insurance often covers the costs if the owner cannot pay out of pocket.
Unfortunately, your options for making a financial recovery are limited if you are attacked by a stray dog, or a dog running at large with no known owner. In this scenario, you will not have the ability to hold the owner of the pet accountable for your injuries and bills. There is no owner to bring charges against. You may have to turn to your own health insurance to cover the costs of your medical bills if a third-party claim is not possible.
Your first option is to identify the owner of the dog, if applicable. It is possible that a dog that appears to be a stray has an owner and simply escaped or was unlawfully permitted to run at large. Call the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control Center at (602) 506-7387 to report the dog bite injury and the stray dog. Trained professionals can attempt to catch the dog and search the animal for a microchip or tag to determine if it has an owner. If so, you can hold the owner responsible for your dog bite injury.
Another possibility is if the dog was in the care of the city or county. In this scenario, you can hold the government agency responsible for your injuries. If a rescued animal escaped from Animal Control and attacked you, for example, you may be able to hold the government liable for failing to control the dog. You could argue that the center was negligent in allowing the dog to escape and that it is therefore responsible for your injuries and damages.
Finally, you may be able to hold the owner of the property where the attack occurred responsible if he or she contributed to the incident. If someone in your neighborhood has been feeding the stray dog, for example, or taking care of it, you could potentially hold that individual responsible for your injuries even if the individual is not legally the dog’s owner. Feeding, harboring or caring for a stray dog can place legal responsibility for the animal with the owner of the premises in Arizona, depending on the circumstances.
If you or a loved one was recently bitten by a stray dog, help is available. Discuss your financial recovery options in more detail with a dog bite injury lawyer in Phoenix.