Dogs are generally harmless when left alone at home. They may spend their time playing, napping or engaging in mischief. However, should a stranger trespass into your home—a place they see as their territory—their instinct to protect it may trigger behaviors of aggression or fear. Because this person is unfamiliar to them, the dog might attack.
If your dog does bite the trespasser, who is now threatening legal action, you might be questioning whether their claim is valid in the first place. The situation can be particularly frustrating, considering that the individual was on your property without permission in the first place.
When are dog owners liable for injuries?
Under California state law, dog owners are liable if their dog bites someone in a public place or lawfully in a private place.
Generally, trespassers are people who:
- Were not invited onto the property
- Are not performing an official duty on the property
- Was invited onto the property but had their invitation revoked
- Refused to leave when asked to
Because the trespasser entered your private property without your permission, they would have difficulty suing you for damages. They will have to show that you, the dog’s owner, were negligent in some way which directly contributed to their injuries.
By law, dog owners must ensure their dogs don’t put other people at an unreasonable risk of harm. You might be considered negligent if you know your dog is vicious or potentially dangerous but don’t do anything about it.
State law may not usually protect trespassers, but negligence rules could allow them to seek compensation. If an intruder on your property is alleging you are responsible for their dog bite injuries, consider speaking to a dog bite attorney at once.