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Owner’s responsibility after a dog bite

Penal Code 398 PC – Defining A Dog Owner’s Responsibility Following a Dog Bite

According to California dog bite law, encompassed and defined by Penal Code 398 PC, legislation states that an animal owner, whose dog bites or attacks another person, must provide that person that has been attacked with:

  • Dog owner contact information, as well as
  • any pertinent information concerning the dog’s rabies vaccination status

The owner must additionally provide this information within 48 hours of the dog bite. The dog owner’s failure to provide such information constitutes as a crime in California.

PC 398 states that “(a) If a person owning or in charge of an animal knows, or has reason to know, that the animal bit another person, he or she shall, as soon as practical, but no later than 48 hours after the fact, give the other person his or her name, address, telephone number, and the name and license tag number of the animal who bit the other person. Within 48 hours following the bite, the person who owns or has custody of the animal must inform the other person of the animal’s vaccination status if the animal is required by law to be vaccinated against rabies. A violation of this provision is an offense that carries a maximum fine of one hundred dollars ($100).

(b) In order for the touch to qualify as a bite for the purposes of this section, the person’s skin must be torn or penetrated by the animal.


  • Manuel saw his dog biting a man in the park, but he never approaches the man.
  • John learns that his golden retriever bit a woman, but he waits a week to get in touch with her.
  • Despite the fact that Ron is aware that her dog bit a jogger, she never gives him her name or contact information.

Potential Defenses

Fortunately, there are a number of legal defenses one might assert if charged with a crime under Penal Code 398. These include proving the following:

  • the dog did not “bite” anyone;
  • the defendant was unfairly accused; and
  • the defendant is not the dog’s owner.

Potential Penalties

A violation of PC 398 is charged as an infraction (as opposed to a misdemeanor or a felony). The crime is punishable by a $100 fine. No time gets served in county jail or the state prison.

This article will cover various aspects how of Penal Code 398 defines the dog owner’s responsibility in the context of dog bite lawsuits.

1. What obligations does the dog owner have following a dog bite?

According to Penal Code 398 PC, a dog owner in California is required to give the victim of a dog bite his contact information as well as any information regarding the dog’s rabies vaccinations.

  1. Within 48 hours of the dog bite, the owner is also required to report this information.
  2. Note that both dog owners and anybody else who has custody or control over the dog are subject to these regulations.
  3. Also take note that “contact information” contains the dog’s name and license tag number, as well as the owner’s name, address, and phone number.
  4. PC 398b states that a dog’s fangs do not have to pierce a person’s skin in order for there to liability. It is enough for the teeth to have just grazed or touched the skin.

2. Are there any existing defenses to PC 398 allegations?

If a dog owner is charged or accused with failing to disclose a dog bite, he or she may refute the charge by asserting a legal defense. A strong defense frequently results in a charge being dropped or reduced.

There are three typical responses to PC 398 allegations: not owned by the owner

2. no dog bite; or

3. false accusations

2.1. Person accused is not the owner of the dog

Please keep in mind that only the dog’s owner and a person with control or custody of the dog are required to report information about a dog bite.

This means that even though a dog may have bitten or attacked someone, it is always possible for a defendant to prove that they did not own, have control over, or have custody of the dog in question.

2.2. No dog bite

Keep in mind that PC 398 only applies when a dog actually bites someone. For instance, if a dog simply growls or barks at a person, the law is not violated. Therefore, proving that there was no dog bite at the time of the alleged offense is a good defense.

2.3. False accusations

People are too frequently convicted on the basis of false accusations. Jealousy, retaliation, and rage are some of the reasons why people are falsely accused.

Therefore, a defendant’s claim that they were wrongfully accused of breaking Penal Code 398 or that their dog bit someone is a legal one.

3. Punishment, penalties, and sentencing

A violation of PC 398 can be cited as an infraction. The crime is punishable by the incurrence of a $100 fine.

4. Contingent or Related Offenses

There are three potential crimes related or adjacent to a dog owner failure to report a dog bite. Below is a list of potential offenses and applicable California legislation are:

  1. dogfighting – PC 597.5,
  2. leaving an animal behind in an unattended vehicle – PC 597.7, and
  3. cockfighting – PC 597b

4.1. PC 597.5 Penal Code: Dogfighting The California law regarding dogfighting is 597.5 PC.

The following are criminally prohibited by the California statute on dogfighting:

  1. Causing a dog to fight with another dog or cause any dogs to injure each other for entertainment or profit;
  2. Allowing either of the aforementioned two acts to occur on any property under your control;
  3. Owning, keeping, training, or possessing any dog with the intent that it will engage in an exhibition of fighting with another dog.
  4. Being present at a dogfight or a location where preparations are being made for a dogfight with knowledge and intent.
    1. An accused person will face a misdemeanor charge if he or sheis a dogfight spectator.
    1. The following penalties are possible as result of the offense: a $5,000 fine, up to a year in county jail, or both.

All additional infractions under PC 597.5 are considered felonies in California. A felony conviction for dogfighting carries the following sentences: 16 months, 2 years, 3 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

4.2. – PC 597.7- Leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle

PC 597.7 Penal Code 597.7 PC is the California law that explicitly forbids leaving an animal (or animals) in an unattended car if doing so will harm the animal’s health or well-being.

If the animal is not severely injured, a punishment of up to $100 may be imposed for a breach of PC 597.7.

If the animal does incur injury, then the defendant may be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $500 and a six-month county jail sentence.10

4.3. Cockfighting – PC 597b

The California law that prohibits cockfighting is California Penal Code 597(b) PC (or, the fighting or injuring of roosters). According to the law, it is illegal for anyone to start a cockfight or hurt a rooster. PC 597(b) charges 11 first-time offenders with misdemeanors. One year in a county jail is one of the possible sentences, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

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