Facebook pixel
Skip to Main Content

Is It Legal To Kill A Dog If It Attacks Me

Vicious Dog Growling and Ready to Attack

California is known for its dog-friendly atmosphere, offering refuge to numerous animals that have endured hardship or abandonment. The state is dotted with numerous shelters, and it’s common to find dog owners who cherish their pets as if they were their own children. Known for their loyalty, dogs often bring solace and companionship during challenging times.
But, unfortunately, dogs sometimes may bite and engage in aggressive behavior. When this occurs, you want to be prepared as much as possible.

Our top-rated dog bite attorneys are available 24/7 to assist you if you or a loved one have been injured by a dog. Dog bites, if not treated properly, could result in several different types of diseases and illnesses. It is very important to hold the responsible dog owner liable for the injuries suffered. Dog bites will almost always require an emergency room visit, along with prescription antibiotics to deal with any future illnesses.

What is considered a dog bite?

A dog bite is defined as an incident where a dog’s teeth make contact with a person’s skin. It’s important to note that this contact does not always require the skin to be punctured or “broken.” For instance, if a dog bites you but only manages to grasp your clothing, this scenario still qualifies as a dog bite. Under such circumstances, the dog owner can still be held accountable for the incident.

California Strict Liability

Under California law, dog owners fall under strict liability laws. This means that dog owners are strictly liable for the actions of their dog. Whether their dog has dangerous propensities or not, a dog owner will almost always be held liable. Other states do not follow the strict liability rule, and only hold dog owners responsible if their dog has been dangerous in the past.

This allows the victim of the dog bite to file a lawsuit against the dog owner for damages. Damages could include lost wages, medical bills, along with any pain and suffering. Dog bites could result in very severe scarring and disfigurement, and this takes an emotional toll on the dog bite victim. It is very important for the dog bite victim to seek closure and justice by holding the dog owner responsible.

How To Prove Strict Liability In California?

In order to file a dog bite lawsuit against the dog owner, there are certain requirements that your personal injury attorney must meet. Under strict liability legal theory, your attorney must show:

  • That you were bitten by a dog.
  • You were bitten in a public space or in a private place you had the right to be in. This means that if you were a trespasser on someone’s land, you most likely will not be able to recover compensation under the strict liability dog statute.

Can I always file a lawsuit for my dog bite?

Under California law, you will not be able to file a lawsuit against a police or military dog.

California Negligence Liability

Another way that you could hold a dog owner responsible for the actions of their dog is by filing a lawsuit under a negligence legal theory. By doing so, you will be able to hold the dog owner responsible for being negligent and failing to prevent the accident. You may be able to file a negligence liability lawsuit if the strict liability lawsuit fails. Further, if you have experienced injuries caused by other actions by a dog, such as a dog jumping over you or attacking you without biting you, you most likely will have to file a negligence liability lawsuit instead of a strict liability lawsuit.

Is it illegal to kill a dog if it bites you?

In California, it is considered illegal to kill another person’s dog, even if they bite you. However, there are certain circumstances where you may have the right to kill an animal if it is considered to be reasonably necessary to protect another person or to protect property. For example, if you were fearful for your life during the dog bite, you may be able to use excessive force to kill the dog.

However, those who kill another person’s dog may have to compensate the dog owner for the dog. The dog is considered somewhat to be the other person’s personal property. This means that if you kill another person’s dog, you may be liable to them for compensation.

If you killed the dog and animal abuse was involved, you may be facing criminal charges in California. For instance, if the dog did not place you in any danger for yourself or for your property, you do not have a right to kill the dog and will be held responsible for compensating the dog owner.

When do people have the right to kill a dog?

California has several anti-animal cruelty rules in place that prevent people from killing other people’s dogs. However, there are very slim circumstances where it is legal to kill another person’s dog. The main rule is that the person must have believed it was reasonably necessary to kill or injure the animal. This means that the animal must have been a threat to the victim and the victim was fearful of getting hurt and sustaining injuries. If the victim killed the dog in self-defense or for another person, it most likely is legal to kill another person’s dog.

  • However, certain circumstances we look at are when the dog is chasing or attacking another person. In certain circumstances, it is even legal to kill someone’s dog if their dog was an immediate threat to your pet.
  • If the dog has a tendency to dangerous behavior, then the dog could be put to sleep. For example, if the dog was dangerous to life, limb, or property, the dog could be put to sleep to prevent severe injuries.
  • This also applies to government entities. For example, if the dog owner has been given notice multiple times regarding the dangerous tendencies of their dog, the government entity could step in and put the dog to sleep themselves.
  • If the dog is trespassing on another person’s property, then the person has no right to kill the dog. Trespassing is simply not a valid excuse to kill someone else’s dog. However, if the dog was causing very severe and substantial property damage, enough to warrant such behavior, then it is legal to kill the dog.
  • In California, it is prohibited to kill a dog by poisoning them. For example, a neighbor cannot put out poison so their neighbor’s dog can die. This is also considered animal cruelty, and the killer could face serious fines and criminal charges.
  • In certain parts of California, if a dog is chasing another person’s livestock, then that person has the right to kill the dog. Livestock is considered to be the person’s personal property.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a dog, our attorneys are available 24/7 to assist you with any claims you may have. We know that there are several questions that can run through your mind, especially if you have hurt the dog while defending yourself. In certain circumstances, you may still be able to seek compensation from the dog owner even if you have injured the dog owner’s dog. Call us today to schedule a consultation!

***Disclaimer: This webpage has been crafted by Heidari Law Group solely for educational purposes. The content of this article aims to offer a broad comprehension of the law and does not constitute specific legal advice. By accessing this site and perusing its contents, no attorney-client relationship is established between you and any member of Heidari Law. Additionally, it’s important to note that the legal landscape is subject to continuous change, rendering some of the information provided herein potentially outdated or no longer applicable.

Sam Heidari

Free Case Evaluation 24/7

Contact Us




Rear-End Accidents


Sideswipe Accidents

$1.1 Million

Head-On Accidents

$2.0 Million

T-Bone Accidents

$1.0 Million

Single-Vehicle Accidents

Case Results

$3.3 Million

Motorcycle Accident

$2.0 Million

Car accident

$1.4 Million

Brain Injury

$1.1 Million

Motor Vehicle Accident





Sam Heidari

Sam Ryan Heidari

Sam Heidari is the founding principal of Heidari Law Group, a law firm specializing in personal injury, wrongful death, and employment law with offices in California and Nevada. Sam Heidari has been practicing law for over 11 years and handles a wide range of cases including car accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination, and product liability. The Heidari Law Group legal firm is known for its comprehensive approach, handling cases from initial consultation through to final judgment. Sam Heidari is dedicated to community involvement and advocacy for civil liberties.

Contact Us

24/7 Free Case Evaluation