Liability for Dog Bite — Dog Owner or Landlord?

Question: We own a rental home in Peoria. Last week our tenant’s German Shepherd escaped through a hole in the fence, and seriously injured a neighbor’s four-year-old son. In a recent column you said that under Arizona law the owner of a dog has strict liability for a dog bite. The tenant is saying, however, that we are responsible for the attack by their German Shepherd. They claim that there was a hole in the fence when they moved in, and that we promised to fix this hole. In fact, we never knew of the hole in the fence because, if we had known, we certainly would have repaired the fence. If a dog owner in Arizona has strict liability for an attack by their dog, how can we as the landlords have any liability for this attack by our tenant’s German Shepherd?

Answer: Your tenant has strict liability for the injuries suffered by the four-year-old due to the attack by your tenant’s German Shepherd. If you had knowledge of the hole in the fence, however, and failed to properly repair the fence, you could be liable to indemnify the tenant, or the tenant’s insurance company, for any damages paid by the tenant.

Note: Many tenants don’t have insurance, even though the lease may require tenant’s insurance. A landlord should get a copy of the tenant’s insurance policy, or at least a certificate of insurance, at the time that the lease is signed.

Comment from an upset reader: Regarding your article about liability for dog bites, if you want to own or have a dog in your possession you are accountable, especially on your property. Don’t give these dog owners any outs, as dog owners, not the dogs, need to go to obedience school. Since when is a dog more important than a human being?

Interesting how we can make insurance companies accountable. Many states with a “one free bite law”? What a joke, you get bit and have major health consequences because a dog owner can’t be responsible for their own dog? Time for entitled people in our society to be accountable. Maybe we can give these lovely dog owners a government subsidy to appease them. A monthly supply of dog food forever!

How can you even write such a stupid article? Quit giving stupid dog owners outs.

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