Call Amerberg Law Group CALL US

Dog Bites a Dog Walker

Who is rendered liable in the event that a dog bites a professional dog walker?

A professional dog walker, employed by a company to walk dogs, may experience challenges in securing a dog bite lawsuit victory in the state of California.

California’s dog bite statute attributes strict liability in the case of a dog biting or attack someone, even if the dog has never previously bitten or attacked someone, and the owner is otherwise faultless,

The exception to the strict liability rule, however, manifests in the form of those who work with in animals in a professional capacity. This exception in California is embodied by what is known as the “Veterinarian’s Rule.”

Under the purview and scope of the “Veterinarian’s Rule,” individuals interacting and working with dogs in a professional capacity, inherently assume the risk of incurring a dog bite as a potential hazard of their professional occupation.

The article below digs deeper into the discussion of when dog walkers are eligible to sue for a dog bite attack.

1. What is the scope of the Veterinarian’s Rule in accordance with California dog bite legislation?

As reiterated earlier, the “Veterinarian’s Rule” encompasses a unique assumption of risk under the scope of California law and dog bite legislation. This rule entails that’s individuals working with dogs professionally assume the risk of dog bite unless the following circumstances arise:

  1. The dog owner was previously aware or should have been aware of the dog’s history of aggressive or dangerous behavior
  2. The dog owner, despite his or her knowledge of the dog’s aggression, failed to notify the professional handler

The notion here is that an individual, regardless of his or her professional working title or environment, cannot consciously assume a risk of which he or she is not aware exists in the first place.

The question, however, may arise. Does California typically enforce strict liability in the context of dog bites?

Conventionally, the answer to this question is yes- California does render dog owners strictly liable for dog bites.

The strict liability imposition contrasts sharply with the legislation of other states, which enforce the “one bite rule,” allowing for an animal to exhibit aggression or biting towards another human just once, prior to holding the dog owner liable.

While California does not enforce the “one-bite,” rule, the Veterinarian’s Rule, is often held as the exception to the state’s imposition of strict liability in the case of first-time dog bites.

The Veterinarians Rule functions in accordance with the premise of the one bite rule, holding the dog owner liable only in the case that the dog owner may have already been aware of the animals history of aggression or biting of other people.

It is to be noted, however, that the Veterinarian’s Rule is only applicable in scenarios that encompasses individuals who work with dogs in a professional capacity i.e. animal technicians, dog walkers, veterinarians…etc.

2. Is the Veterinarian’s Rule applicable to dog bite cases involving dog walkers?

Yes. The Veterinarian’s Rule effectively applies to any individual who works with dogs in a professional capacity, assuming risk as a byproduct of workplace conditions, Professionals working with dogs may include the following occupations:

  • Pet groomers
  • Veterinary technicians
  • Veterinarians
  • Animal technicians
  • Kennel employees
  • Professional dog walkers
  • Animal control workers

However, a follow up question may arise. What about a scenario in which the dog bite victim was walking the dog as a favor to the dog owner?

Typically, the Veterinarian’s Rule is only held applicable to individuals who work with dogs in a formal, professional capacity. By regularly and professionally working with dogs, these individuals implicitly assume the risk of dog bite or other injuries resulting from interactions with dogs.

Currently, this ruling has not been applied to individuals walking other dogs as a favor their friends or neighbors.

While unlikely, it is conceivable that a court may apply the Veterinarian’s rule to a seeming non-professional who has had exposure to many dogs over the years through repeated ownership and pet oversight, as he may be deemed as having superior knowledge of canines.

3. At what point is a California dog walker eligible sue for a dog bite incident?

In order to sue for a dog bite under California legislation, a non-professional dog walker would be required to prove the following:

  • At the time the bite transpired, the dog walker was lawfully situated on the defendant’s property or that the animal was in public
  • The defendant was the proper, registered owner of the dog responsible for biting the walker
  • The dog walker was bitten and harmed by the aggressive, attacking dog
  • The dog walker suffered various damages as a result of the dog bite

However, if the plaintiff is a professional dog walker, having assumed risk as a result of his or her occupation, the individual would be required to prove the following:

  • The animal had demonstrated previous aggressive tendencies, including having a history of attack others
  • The owner was aware of the dog’s previous history of aggression
  • The owner failed to notify the dog walker of the dog’s aggression, or substantially downplayed the degree of the dog’s aggressive behavior

Consider the following fictitious scenario: Koda is a full-grown Pit-bull Terrier Mix His owner Ralph hires Angela to walk Koda and informs her that Koda is friendly. During the walk, Koda attacks Angela severing tendons in her ankle. Angela must undergo life-saving surgery as well as months of therapy following the attack. Ralph denies strict liability attributing the Veterinarian’s Rule. But, Angela’s dog bite attorneys discovers a history of Koda’s aggression in which he previously bit and attacked another veterinary worker. Because Ralph knew of this attack and chose not to disclose this information to Angela, he is held liable for Angela’s injuries.

Note, the case above would be held applicable only in the scenario that Angela did not do anything to purposefully provoke, tease, or anger Koda into aggressively attacking her.

4. What compensatory damages am I eligible to recover for a dog bite?

California professional dog walkers who are bitten by dogs during their service, are eligible to recover compensatory damages, and in some cases punitive damages, as a result of the transpired dog bite incident.

Damages in a dog bite case can include the recovery of financial losses encompassing the following items:

  • Medical bills for the treatment of the dog bite
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity as a result of the dog bite injury

Non-economic damages can also be recovered in a dog bite incident. They include the following:

  • Damages for incurred pain and suffering
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss or amputation of a limb resulting from the dog bite
  • Loss of life enjoyment as a result of the bite
  • Inconvenience suffered from the dog bite attack

In the case that a fatality results from a particularly morbid dog bite attack, a victim’s family members are eligible to recover damages in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit filed in California, which is also known as a “lawsuit for loss of consortium,” or “survival action.”

5. If a dog walker is bitten on the job, who can be sued for compensatory damages?

A dog walker, if bitten while on the job, may be eligible to recover compensatory damages from the following parties:

  • The responsible dog owner
  • The dog owner’s homeowner or rental liability insurer
  • The dog walker’s employer, especially if the dog walking services were booked thought an application that is registered as a dog-walking business, or if the employer is an employment agency or traditional dog-walking business
  • The owner’s employer, if the animal was known to serve as a working dog
Schedule a FREE consultation and let us know what happened.


Have an enquiry? Fill out the form and schedule a free consultation with us.


    Email address

    Phone Number

    Date of injury

    City where the injury happened

    Describe the injury and how it happened