For all of the joy, love, and loyalty a dog brings into a home, owners do well to remember that canines come with issues: past trauma may trigger fear, lack of trust, or — on occasion — a violent reaction. Yet even the most finely bred dogs can exhibit aggressive behavior to the point of biting, according to the American Kennel Club. The instincts of their wolf ancestors remain, albeit faintly. This is important for Arizona dog owners to know because they are subject to strict liability laws, Phoenix residents even more so.
- There are no “three strikes, you’re out” allowances for dog bites. The first bite exposes the owner to legal action whether or not the dog had a previous bite on record. Moreover, the owner may have no knowledge of prior aggression yet still bear responsibility. This liability extends to incidents on both public and private property — so long as the victim is there legally — including on parcels owned by either the owner or the victim. If a dog-sitter is caring for the canine at the time of the incident, that person might also bear liability, but the owner remains responsible, nevertheless.
- Arizona does recognize instances when a dog-bite victim can incite the attack. Such examples mitigate the responsibility of the owner. The decision on this may end up lying with a judge or magistrate, but the law itself assumes circumstances where a canine may result from provocation. All Arizona dog-bite statutes pertain to the city of Phoenix, but the city also imposes rules of its own:
- All owned dogs must be licensed and tagged accordingly. The owners must remit an annual licensing fee — $16 for those animals spayed or neutered; $40 for those unaltered. If the dog resides in a domicile for a month or longer, the city will recognize the property owner as the dog’s owner. Why is this relevant? As a dog bite victim, you need to know the responsible party for your injuries. Proper licensing aids law enforcement in identifying the legal owner of a biting dog. Harboring an unlicensed dog further damages an owner’s case.
- Dogs must be tethered to an owner or permitted caretaker; they are not allowed to roam at large in public. This law minimizes the occasion or canine conflict with a stranger. One exception to these ordinances would be in city-approved dog parks. Another could be a trained, working dog, e.g., police, military, or service dog.
- A dog (or cat) that does bite must be confined for seven days. If shots and medical records are up to date, the owner might be able to keep the animal under house arrest. Otherwise, a veterinary hospital or county pound will serve as impoundment quarters.
- Citizens of Phoenix who suspect a local dog is vicious can petition a municipal court to make a determination. A subsequent hearing will affect the outcome of the petition. The bite of a dog deemed vicious by a court is of greater seriousness.