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It's hard not to love dogs, right? It is usually the dog owners who are the problem. When owners of dogs and other wild and domestic animals fail to train, restrain or confine their pets with a leash or an enclosure, those animals can run free and inflict bites and other injuries serious enough to require medical attention.

We have represented many innocent victims of attacks by dogs who have suffered serious puncture wounds, disfiguring scars, loss of vision, loss of teeth, infection, etc.; and bites and scratch wounds are not the only dangers. Unrestrained dogs create other potentially deadly hazards. We recently represented several professional motorcycle factory test riders who were seriously injured when an unrestrained large-breed dog charged them on the roadway as they passed by his yard. The dog actually collided with one motorcycle, causing that rider and the rider following to crash to the pavement.

The dog's owner was sued for her failure to control and confine her dog in accordance with the Arizona state and county "leash laws." Her homeowner's insurance policy paid our clients the full policy limits.

Don't Be A Silent Victim. You Have Rights. Take Action.

In our recent jury trials we represented a woman who was visiting her boyfriend who owned a very rambunctious dog. While the owner was "playing" with his dog and throwing his dog's favorite toy around the room, our client was quietly reclining on the couch watching TV. Without warning, the owner pretended to "hide" the dog's toy under the plaintiff's pillow, causing the dog to pounce on our client's head and face, forcibly striking her eye and causing a permanent loss of vision and disability. The jury found the owner negligent and awarded our client $275,000. The judge also found the defendant "strictly liable" for violation of the Arizona laws requiring dog owners to keep their dogs leashed or confined to enclosures.

Keep in mind that injuries can be inflicted by many species of animal, including horses, cattle, cats, large birds, and of course dogs. Not all of the dogs that bite or inflict injuries are "the usual suspects" (Pit Bull, Doberman, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Akita and Presa Canary).

In fact, the dog in the motorcycle accident case mentioned above was a Labrador Retriever; and the dog that caused the eye injury was a Vizsla. Sadly, neither dog had an owner who had ever bothered to train or restrain them.

Again, it is the owners, not their animals, who are responsible when bites, attacks or other serious injuries occur. In Arizona, most individual counties and cities have their own particular "Leash Laws." In addition, the State of Arizona has laws that generally prohibit owners from letting their dogs run free or "at large," and require owners to either their dogs leashed or confined to enclosures, such as kennels, fenced yards, or inside the owner's homes. The leashing and enclosing animals not only prevents the animals from running "at large" and getting hurt, lost or stolen; it also helps prevent innocent people, including children, mail carriers, deliverymen, etc., from being attacked by unrestrained animals or injured when loose animals run out into traffic or "chase cars."

Despite what many people have heard, the owner of a dog that bites someone can be held responsible even if the dog has never bitten anybody before! Arizona does not permit any dog "one free bite."

Arizona State Laws Regarding Dog Bites and Other Injuries Caused By Dogs

Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") §11-1001. Definitions can be found here.

A.R.S. §11-1020 permits a person injured by a dog while at large to recover simply by proving that the statute has been violated. If the elements of the statute are satisfied, the legislature has decided to impose liability without fault. Moreover, the cases make clear that the "at large" language applies even when the dog is on the owner's property, so long as he is not leashed or otherwise in an enclosure, such as a kennel. (See, e.g., Jones v. Manhart, 120 Ariz. 338, 585 P.2d 1250 (App. 1978); Murdock v. Balle, 696 P.2d 230, 144 Ariz. 136 (Ariz.App.Div.1 02/21/1985)). The statute protects any person who is lawfully present on public or private property, including the defendant dog-owner's home. The only defense to liability is proof that the injured party provoked the dog. See A.R.S. §11-1027, infra. See also, Litzkuhn v. Clark, 85 Ariz. 355, 339 P.2d 389 (1959); James v. Cox, 130 Ariz. 152, 634 P.2d 964 (App.1981).

A.R.S. §11-1025. Liability for dog bites.

A. The owner of a dog which 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.

A.R.S. §11-1027. Reasonable provocation as defense.

Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.

If it is later proven that the dog has bitten or attacked on prior occasions, and the owner knew that, then the owner will face even more serious civil and possibly criminal penalties. Pet owners actually have very few defenses when their animals injure or kill people while the animals are unleashed and/or not confined to an enclosure. Unless it is shown that the injured person was trespassing, or that he teased, tormented or somehow provoked the animal (or entered the enclosure), then he probably has good legal grounds to recover monetary damages for his injuries from the animal's owner.

Get the Legal Help You Need

If you or a loved one live in the greater Scottsdale, Arizona area and have suffered serious injuries after being bitten, attacked or injured because of a dog or other privately-owned animal, it is important to know your legal rights, which may vary depending upon the laws of your particular city or county. Our firm can assist you in determining your legal rights and help with insurance claims and requests for compensation.

Contact us at (480) 347-9804 to arrange a confidential free consultation. When results matter, choose The Watkin Law Office, PC.

The Watkin Law Office, PC is a Arizona personal injury and wrongful death law firm that represents dog bite victims and other personal injury and wrongful death clients throughout Arizona, including Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Cave Creek, Carefree, Fountain Hills and Paradise Valley. Contact us today for a free confidential consultation.

REMEMBER: If the other side's claims adjuster calls to "interview" you or "take your statement," politely decline -- at least until after you have spoken with an experienced dog injury and wrongful death attorney. Despite what the insurance adjuster might tell you, he or she is NOT "just trying to help."

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