Guide to Laws for Pet Owners in San Francisco
What are my responsibilities if my dog bites someone?
If you are a dog owner in California, you are responsible for any harm the dog causes by biting another person. This applies regardless of whether the dog has ever been aggressive or has bitten anyone ever before.1Cal Civil Code Sec 3342
However, you are generally NOT responsible for the dog bite if the person bitten is a trespasser or provoked the dog.2Burden v. Globerson (1967) 252 Cal.App.2d 468, 471
In the city of San Francisco, if your dog bites anyone, you must provide the bitten person with your information as well as information about rabies vaccination. You must also report the incident to the Dept of Animal Care and Control.3SF Health Code Sec 39 The owner or guardian of the biting dog is subject to an infraction and fine of $25.4SF Health Code Sec 41.5.1
2. Animals in cars
Is it illegal to leave my dog in a car?
It is illegal to leave a dog (or any animal) in a car where it could endanger the health or well being of the animal, due to extreme heat, extreme cold, lack of food or water, or other circumstances.5Penal Code Sec 597.7
Is it legal to break into a car to rescue a dog?
Yes, under certain circumstances. You must reasonably believe that it is necessary to break into the car in order to save a dog (or other animal) from imminent harm, and you must contact law enforcement, animal control, or the fire department. You must remain with the animal until the authorities arrive.6Penal Code 597.7
If I break a car window to save an animal, can I be sued?
If you follow the above rules, you can not be held liable for the damage you cause to the car.7Civil Code 43.100
3. Other rules
Do I need a license for my dog?
Yes, you must have a license from the city of San Francisco Dept of Animal Care and Control.
Do I need a license for my cat?
No, but it is optional.
Is it illegal to get a dog from a breeder?
Dog breeders are illegal in the city of San Francisco, but it is not illegal for individuals to buy from legal breeders outside the city. See our Guide to Animal Rights for more on this.
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