By Zachary J. Thornley

In the North Phoenix area many folks have dogs. I see many different types of dogs as people are out for walks in my neighborhood. During the summer, the number of people walking their dogs goes down some due to the heat.

As we move closer to the cooler months, we will all likely see many people back outside enjoying the nice weather and that also means more people out walking their dogs. Most dog owners are responsible but sometimes it is someone else who can cause you problems despite how responsible you are.

In Arizona, dog bites are dealt with on a strict scrutiny basis. Strict liability is applied if your dog bites someone or someone else’s dog. According to the law, there is no question as to whose fault it may have been. To put it more plainly, if your dog bites someone, you will be on the hook for any damages that result from that dog bite.

So, when you stop to let that stranger pet your dog, just know that if your dog decides it doesn’t like that stranger’s hand, you may end up getting to know that stranger a whole lot more than you may have ever wanted. In the event there are medical bills or missed work, you will be on the hook. If the person plays guitar for a living and can no longer play due to torn tendons or a deformed hand, then you may be on the hook for a lifetime of income.

Arizona Revised Statute § 11-1020 states, “Injury to any person or damage to any property by a dog while at large shall be the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.” It stands to reason that if you allow your dog to run around unattended or without a leash and it bites someone then you are going to be responsible as that dog’s owner.

Arizona goes further to address dogs not at large in A.R.S. § 11-1025, “The owner of a dog that bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten.”

Some states have a “one free bite” rule. The idea behind “one free bite” is that the owner had no notice that his/her dog was a dog that would bite someone, so the first time they bite, the owner is then on notice. Arizona has “no free bites.” In Arizona, if your dog bites, then you are liable.

Dog bites can cause a great deal of damage and in some cases death. If you have been bitten by a dog, you should likely seek treatment right away. Then you will want to contact an experienced attorney to make sure that you are compensated for damages resulting from that bite.

Zachary J. Thornley is a trial attorney licensed in the state of Arizona. To learn more, visit The information contained herein does not constitute legal advice and in no way creates an attorney-client relationship. Contact an experienced attorney in your area for advice on your specific situation.