Hero Cat Video: Can Attacking Dog's Owner Face Liability?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on May 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Dogs may be "man's best friend," but an 8-year-old California boy's cat is being called a hero after the feisty feline fended off a dog attack. Video of the incident quickly went viral.

And while the cat is being rightfully celebrated, the question remains: Can the owner of the dog be held liable for the boy's injuries?

Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

Video of the incident, taken by surveillance cameras, shows 8-year-old son Jeremy Triantafilo playing on his bike in the family's driveway when a neighbor's dog sneaks up behind the boy, latches onto his leg and drags him off his bike.

That's when the family cat Tara rushes into the picture and attacks the dog, chasing it from the driveway while Jeremy runs toward the house. You can see what happened in this video obtained by Bakersfield's KERO-TV:

Jeremy required stitches for lacerations to his leg. According to KERO, police have quarantined the dog and plan to euthanize it. Meantime, Tara the cat is being celebrated on social media and a YouTube video of the attack has almost 900,000 views.

Owner Liability for Dog Bites

When a dog bite causes injuries, the owner of the dog may be liable, depending on the rules of the state in which the attack occurs. Some states have strict liability rules for dog bite cases, while in others an injured person must show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was predisposed to bite, sometimes called "vicious propensities."

Some factors that can be used to determine an animal's vicious propensities include:

  • The breed and size of the animal,
  • The purpose for which the animal is kept,
  • Complaints brought to the owner's attention,
  • Fights with other animals,
  • Frequent confinement of the animal,
  • Warning signs on the owner's premises, and
  • Statements by the owner as to the animal's known behavior.

If a dog bite victim is successful in proving either through strict liability or a dog's vicious propensities, the owner of the dog may be liable to the victim -- although in some instances a claim arising from a dog bite will be covered by the dog owner's homeowner's insurance.

As for the dog that got chased away by the cat, police have not identified its owner by name. But that owner told police the dog apparently did not like children or bicycles, Reuters reports.

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