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  • Writer's pictureAcclaim Law Group

A San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Explains The Veterinarians Rule

When one thinks of the perfect American family, we often picture two to three kids, a white picket fence, and a Golden Retriever. Dogs have gripped the hearts of American’s so much so that a family is incomplete until they take ownership of a pup. Best known as man’s best friend, we reserve space for dogs in our hearts and lives, and have created numerous services dedicated to their care. But, what happens if your dog accidentally bites someone that is attempting to care for them?

Persons that work with animals professionally work under a tort doctrine known as “primary assumption of risk.”[i] Primary assumption of the risk states that an “animal’s owner is deemed, as a matter of legal policy, to owe no duty of care to the veterinarian or kennel… [as] work that carries with it the very hazards that result in injury; [is not allowed] complete defense… while [a person is] voluntarily assisting in care of injured dog found in public space.”[ii] This protects animal owners from being taken advantage of in high risk situations.

The downside of assuming the risk of care is you may be held liable if a dog bites an unsuspecting person outside of the industry. Dog sitters, land owners, dog groomers, employers who allow dogs onto their premises, and other similarly situated persons, assume the risk that a dog may attack someone outside of themselves. If you are legally in control of a dog, you may be held liable and sued for any injuries caused by the dog. If you work professionally with dogs it is important to get insurance to protect you, and your business, from any lawsuits.

However, if the dog owner hands over control of their dog to a service professional without giving notice of any known vicious our malicious propensities, that person may pursue damages against the dog owner if the dog attacks another person. As established, owners do not owe duty of care to person’s who professionally work with animals “unless the owner has engaged in intentional concealment or misrepresentation of the animal’s propensities, or unless the owner’s conduct is so reckless as to fall totally outside the range of behavior ordinarily expected of those who use veterinary and boarding kennel services.”[iii] Owners cannot deny liability if they know their dog is unfriendly or has a history of being violent. Protecting others from being attacked by an animal, even if they work with animals, is given more precedent in liability cases if the attack could have been prevented.

Dogs are a staple of the American family. They provide us with an unlimited source of love and protect us from intruders. Despite this, dogs are still animals, and people must be warned if they have a propensity for violence. If you have any questions regarding dog bites, Acclaim Law Group will help address your questions. Please call (858) 252-0781 to set up a free consultation.

Disclaimer: While we always seek to establish accuracy when publishing articles, this piece is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be used as such. Each individual case will differ and should be discussed with an attorney or legal expert. If you would like to inquire about pursuing a claim, please contact a personal injury lawyer San Diego at (858) 252-0781 or email

[i]California Tort Guide, 3d.: 2017. (2017). In N. Piatt. CEB.

[ii]California Tort Guide, 3d.: 2017. (2017). In N. Piatt. CEB.

[iii]California Tort Guide, 3d.: 2017. (2017). In N. Piatt. CEB.

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