Dog Bite Laws in Arizona and its Cities
While normally considered to be man’s best friend, from time to time you may encounter a dog that bites a person and causes injury to the victim.
In Arizona, liability for dog bites is governed by A.R.S. 11-1025. This statute states that the “owner of a dog that bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.” The dog’s breed is not taken into account when the court assesses whether or not the dog was acting aggressively, viciously, or created liability.
Excluded are military or police dogs that were defending themselves from harassment or provocation while in the line of duty.
Also excluded are instances where the dog’s attack was caused by a proven provocation to the dog, as per A.R.S. 11-1027, as well as some instances where the bite victim was trespassing or unlawfully on the property where the dog was being held.
It is important to note the following definitions regarding this law:
- “Aggressive” means that a dog has bitten a person or domestic animal without provocation or has a known history of attacking persons or domestic animals without provocation.
- “Breed” means the actual or perceived breed or mixture of breeds of a dog.
- “Provocation” means tormenting, attacking or inciting a dog.
- “Vicious” means that a dog has a propensity to attack, to cause injury to or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings without provocation or has been found to have any of these traits after a hearing before a court or a hearing officer.
Arizona is a “strict liability” state, meaning the owner of a dog that bites and causes injury to a person will be immediately held responsible for all liability.
Additionally, individual cities in Arizona may also have their own more specific laws governing dog bite liability within their own municipal codes. If you own a dog, it is important to look up the dog bite liability laws in the city where you live or anywhere you visit. Below are some examples of cities in Arizona with such city codes:
City of Phoenix
Phoenix lays down the law regarding dog bites in Article III. Phoenix prohibits dogs from being “at large,” meaning they must be contained to a fenced-in yard, on a leash, or under control while working with a handler.
A dog that bites someone is required to be kept under quarantine for one week and the bite must be reported to an enforcement agency immediately. If a criminal complaint is filed, the dog can be impounded. If the dog is found to be “vicious” by the court, it can be required that:
- The dog is fenced into the property at all time with a “Vicious Animal” sign displayed.
- The dog owner must obtain personal liability insurance of at least $100,000.
- The dog is euthanized.
- The dog remain locked indoors.
- The dog be spayed, neutered, defanged, or declawed.
Violations are a class 1 misdemeanor and can result in fines of up to $500 and prison up to five days.
City of Mesa
Mesa’s laws regarding dog bites are found in Chapter 4 of their municipal code. The dog owner bears full responsibility for any injury or damage caused by their dog while at large.
A dog can be considered legally “vicious” through a court hearing process. Once labeled as such, the dog can no longer be outside without a leash and muzzle and must otherwise be kept indoors with a prominent “Vicious Dog” sign displayed. Owners must obtain personal liability insurance in the amount of $100,000. If a vicious dog kills another person or animal, it will be euthanized.
Individuals who violate these laws can be fined up to $2500 and imprisoned for up to six months.
City of Chandler
Chandler’s municipal code discusses dog bites and liability in Chapter 14. Per their code, liability of a dog that causes injury or damage falls fully on the dog’s owner.
The City Magistrate can be petitioned to designate a dog as vicious. This designation will be granted if the court finds that the dog poses risk of injury to other people or animals. The court can order:
- The dog to wear permanent ID and be locked in an indoor kennel at all times except when going outside is required, when it must be leashed and muzzled. A “Vicious Animal” sign must be prominently displayed.
- The dog’s owner to obtain personal liability insurance of $100,000.
- The dog to be spayed, neutered, or euthanized.
A violation of these laws is a class 2 misdemeanor. Offenders may face four months in jail and/or fines up to $750.
City of Tucson
Tucson’s dog bite laws are found in Chapter 4 of their city code. In Tucson, it is against the law for a private citizen to keep a dog that is considered vicious. The owner of a dog that endangers or injures a person or animal, or damages property, will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $2500, jailed for up to six months, and spend up to three years in probation. A vicious dog can be ordered to be:
- Spayed or neutered.
- Banned from city limits.
Criminal Law and Personal Injury Together
Dog bite scenarios are an example of instances where criminal law and personal injury law collide. Damage and personal injury claims will be handled in civil court. However, criminal charges can come into play regarding the liability of the dog owner. When a dog attack comes as a result of its owner not following local or state rules, they can be charged with a misdemeanor.
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