Who Is Responsible For A Dog Bite?

Who is responsible for a dog bite?  Under Arizona law, an owner of a dog is strictly liable (absent provocation) for injuries his/her dog causes when the victim is on public property or is lawfully on private property.  Arizona law defines an owner as “any person keeping an animal other than livestock for more than six consecutive days.” A.R.S. § 11-1001(10) .  So what happens if the dog owners’ brother or friend is taking care of the dog for more than six days, does that make that the person the dog owner for purposes of the dog bite statute?  The Arizona Court of appeals recently answered that question this past October.  The Court held that in order for a person to meet the definition of “keeping” under the statute, that person must exercise care, custody and control over the dog and that merely housing a dog is not “keeping” under the statute.

The Court also found that it will always be a question of fact as to whether a person has exercised sufficient care, custody, or control to be a statutory owner of a dog will and will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.  Even if  the victim cannot establish this meaning of keeping for purposes strict liability, the homeowner could still be found responsible if the victim can show the home owner knew the dog was dangerous and did nothing to protect the general public from the dog.  This however is a much harder to prove than the strict liability under the dog bite statute.

So who is responsible for a dog bite?  As you can see, as with many legal issues, that question is not always easily answered.