Arizona Dog Bite Law

By Nicholas Strom

Dogs are one of the most popular and beloved pets in Arizona. There are countless businesses that cater to dogs or allow dogs at their place of business. It is not uncommon to see dogs with their owners at restaurants or other businesses. While dogs are great companions, one thing I have come to learn is that dog owners rarely know about the potential liability they are exposed to because of their animals.

The Arizona legislature regulates dogs in A.R.S. §§ A.R.S. § 11-1020 and 11-1025. This post will explain Arizona laws related to dogs to warn dog owners about potential liability for their animal.

A.R.S. § 11-1020

A.R.S. § 11-1020 regulates injuries to people and property damage when a dog is at large. It states that “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.”

Note, it is not just the owner that can be liable, but also the “person or persons responsible for the dog.” This could mean you are liable if you are watching someone’s dog as a favor or even if you are responsible for a dog as part of your profession, for example as a dog walker.

A.R.S. § 11-1025(A)

Subsection A of A.R.S. § 11-1025 explains dog owners are “strictly liable” for their dog if it bites someone. Subsection A of that statute states:

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, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.

Put simply, this statute means that if your dog bites someone in public or lawfully on private property you are liable. Period. This concept is known as “strict liability.” Strict liability is where the law has determined that some activities are so dangerous that an individual engaging in those activities is liable for damages regardless of intent or negligence resulting in harm. By law, owning a dog is dangerous enough to require a person to be liable for damages if their dog bites someone.

Additional Relevant Portions of A.R.S. § 11-1025

A.R.S. § 11-1025(B) prohibits consideration of dog breed for findings of fact or conclusions of law by a court. In other words, if you have a traditionally docile dog that is irrelevant. A dog bite is a dog bite.

Subsection C of the statute makes an exception for law enforcement dogs. If a police or military dog bites someone while the dog was defending itself from a harassing or provoking act or assisting an employee of the law enforcement agency the dog and its owner are immune. The statute specifies the dog and its owner are immune when the dog is 1) Apprehending or holding a suspect if the law enforcement employee had a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity; 2) Investigating a crime or possible crime; 3) Executing a warrant; or 4) Defending a peace officer or another person.

There are additional subsections to A.R.S. § 11-1025 which are outside the scope of this article. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the statute in its entirety.

What can dog owners and professionals who work with dogs do to protect themselves?

The first thing dog owners can and should do is make sure they have proper insurance. You should check with your insurance agent to make sure your home or renter’s insurance covers you for dog bite cases. If you are a business owner, you should make sure your policy covers dog bites whether your business actively works with dogs or if you simply allow dogs on your property, e.g. a restaurant owner or landlord. Being properly insured for your dog (and for life in general) is the most important defense to potential liability for your dog.

The other thing dog owners should do is evaluate whether it is wise to take their dog with them when they go to a business. Many people look at their dogs like children (myself included). However, evaluating whether your dog is capable of being public (or even ready to be in public if a puppy) is an important consideration. Even the most well-trained dogs can have a bad moment where they do something out of character. Taking your dog to a public setting may lead to an expensive lawsuit.


Arizona has strict liability for dog bites. This means that the owner (and potentially the person watching the dog on behalf of the owner) is responsible for a dog bite regardless of almost any circumstance, irrespective of the type of dog or history of the dog’s behavior. The only issue a dog bite victim will have to prove is her or his damages (medical bills). Making sure you have proper insurance and evaluating where you take your dog are critical defenses for dog owners.

Fowler St. Clair handles personal injury cases and is here to help. If you have any questions about the legal process or think you may have a case, you can always reach out and one of our trusted team members can discuss your potential personal injury case free of charge.