The state of California used to have the “one bite rule,” but in the 1990s they changed to the strict liability rule. While both rules hold dog owners to a high standard, one is much stricter than the other. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between these two rules:

The Difference Between Strict Liability and the One Bite Rule

The one bite rule allows dog owners some grace in cases where their dog had never bitten anyone before. After a dog has bitten someone once, the owner will most likely be held liable if their dog bites someone again. The reasoning behind this is that they now know their dog is dangerous and should take appropriate precautions. 


The strict liability rule does not allow dog owners any grace if their dog bites someone for the first time. Every dog owner should understand that their dog is an instinctively protective animal. They should assume their dog could bite someone given the right circumstances, and take precautions to keep this from happening.

Understanding the California Strict Liability Rule

Laws in California require a dog owner to take extra caution whether or not their dog has already bitten someone. Dogs with a repeated history of attacking others may be removed from the property or put to sleep. 


California law enforcement officials and animal control may request a hearing against a dog when they believe it is a serious threat to others. When the courts deem that a dog is a threat, they can be required to keep the dog indoors, on a leash, or inside a fenced yard where no children or animals can enter. 


If you do not follow the orders, you may face fines or other penalties. California may determine your dog is dangerous if: 

  • They’ve displayed aggressive behavior on at least two occasions within three years.

  • They bite someone without provocation. 

  • They have injured or killed another domestic animal at least twice in the past three years.


California also has breed-specific special requirements that can affect liability and damages in the event of a dog bite. 

California Breed Specific Laws 

According to California Civil Code, section 3342, dog owners may be legally liable if their dog bites someone. California specifically mentions certain dog breeds in the California Breed-Specific Laws (BSL). The BSL ordinances specify that all dogs on the BSL list must be licensed, including any pitbull that is more than four months old.


Also, pit bull terriers and any other dog breed on the BSL list should be neutered or spayed. California offers $50 vouchers to families who are in a low-income bracket or are having financial trouble in order to help them fulfill these requirements. Sometimes purchasing home insurance is the best way for dog owners to protect themselves, but it’s important to note that insurers don’t cover all breeds of dogs. 

Contact Steinberg Injury Lawyers Today

Dog bite injury cases can be tough to navigate because attacks may happen within a community, making things socially tense. A seasoned dog bite attorney can help keep the situation from escalating and protect your rights. 

If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, don’t wait until it’s too late to seek compensation. Contact Steinberg Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your dog accident case.
Peter Steinberg
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Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Since 1982
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