If my cat bites or scratches and injuries someone—or someone’s dog or cat– what is my liability?

The best thing to do is to seek the advice of a lawyer who has experience in this companion animal law. This individual can help you fully understand your rights and sort out all of the factors. Your potential liability also depends on many things, including the state in which it happened and the owner’s initial knowledge of the cat’s temperament, whether or not the skin was punctured, exactly who was injured and why, etc.

This post should, in no way, be construed as a substitute for legal advice.

Generally, for an owner to be held liable, the owner must have known that his cat dangerous. Therefore, if a cat was usually peaceful but, suddenly and unexpectedly, inflicts an injury, you might not be held liable. It’s your responsibility to know the cat’s tendencies and exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm.

Here are a few examples where you could be held liable:
• If you’re a store owner who knows that the cat is prone to aggressive behavior. You have a duty to keep a safe business environment. Especially in urban areas, many deli owners keep cats to eliminate a potential mouse problem and do not enforce the “no animal in a food establishment rule.” Therefore, some unaware customers may walk in with their dogs.
• If you’re a cat owner who knows of the violent behavior, but lets the cat roam free without constraint, resulting in the cat scratching someone on their property.
• If your cat attacked a dog without provocation and the dog owner was injured in the process.
If your cat is bitten or scratched, always consult your veterinarianSince they are often deep, cat bites and scratches are of particular concern for infection and could also require stitches. Even if it doesn’t look deep to you, have your cat examined by a veterinarian..
NOTE: Any unidentified cat runs the risk of carrying rabies. If the cat cannot be identified and the owner cannot show proof of rabies vaccination, the victim must seek medical attention. Rabies is always fatal to humans if not treated.

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