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Are Pit Bulls Illegal in California? Laws & Regulations Explained

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

pitbull wearing dog collar

Pit Bulls are popular dogs in the United States. Despite their popularity, there are a lot of misconceptions, myths, and rumors about the breed. Pit Bulls are often beloved by their owners but treated warily by strangers due to their reputation for being potentially violent or aggressive. Some places have banned the ownership of Pit Bulls for liability reasons. Is California one of those places? The answer to that question is no. No dog breeds are illegal in California, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t important legal considerations to be aware of if you want to have a pet Pit Bull in the state.

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California Breed Laws

California has no state laws governing the ownership of dog breeds. That means that Pit Bulls are not illegal in the state of California. Anyone can own any dog breed in California, but that does not mean that there cannot be specific restrictions put in place by local cities, counties, or landlords. The state of California has no power to stop someone from owning a Pit Bull, and Pit Bull ownership will not lead to any penalties, but Pit Bulls can still become a liability issue.

California does have general rules and laws regarding dog ownership in the state. In order to keep any dog as a pet, you must follow these basic statutes:

  • Dogs must be vaccinated in accordance with state law.
  • Dogs must be licensed and registered with your local authorities.
  • Dogs must be contained within the owner’s residence or adequately secured yard at all times.

No matter what dog breed you own, from tiny Toy Poodles to large Mastiffs or Pit Bulls, all Californians must abide by these basic state laws at all times.

man signing pet insurance policies
Image Credit: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock

Local Laws and Regulations

Local regulators have the ability to put certain restrictions in place regarding dog ownership. Since the state does not outlaw Pit Bulls, local municipalities cannot outlaw the breed either. However, they can require registration, vaccination, and leashes, and they can ban them from being out in public. Landlords can also put restrictions on what type of dog you can own before renting an apartment or house. That means that it could be difficult to find a rental with a Pit Bull even if they are not illegal to own.

If you are curious, look up your local laws governing dogs and dog breeds. You can look up the laws via your specific city and county. That is the best way to discover what the ordinances are regarding dog ownership and behavior in your area.

Pit Bull Liability

Any potentially aggressive or dangerous dog can be subject to liability in California. That means that if your Pit Bull bites someone or damages someone’s property, you will be held responsible for all damages. The dog’s owner will carry 100% liability in all situations. Even if you have no prior knowledge or history of your dog’s ability to become violent or aggressive, you will still be held responsible. If you have homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or personal liability insurance, you should double check to make sure that it covers dog bites. Some insurance policies cover incidents involving dogs, but not all of them do. You don’t want to be left without coverage in the case of a liability issue.

In extreme cases, this liability could cost thousands of dollars, or even tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the damage caused. You should keep liability in mind when deciding to own a Pit Bull in California.

pitbull dog with leash lying indoor
Image Credit: Andrew P Attilio, Shutterstock

California Penal Code

California is unique in that there are legal penalties for people who fail to control a potentially violent dog, regardless of if that breed is a Pit Bull or not. If your Pit Bull bites someone, you might be held responsible for more than just liability damages. According to the California penal code, a person could be charged with a felony if they fail to control a potentially dangerous or aggressive dog. The law reads as follows:

(a) If any person owning or having custody or control of a mischievous animal, knowing its propensities, willfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care, and the animal, while so at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, kills any human being who has taken all the precautions that the circumstances permitted, or which a reasonable person would ordinarily take in the same situation, is guilty of a felony.

(b) If any person owning or having custody or control of a mischievous animal, knowing its propensities, willfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care, and the animal, while so at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, causes serious bodily injury to any human being who has taken all the precautions that the circumstances permitted, or which a reasonable person would ordinarily take in the same situation, is guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony.

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Image Credit: PaeGAG, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

While Pit Bulls are not illegal in California, owning one could still put you in legal jeopardy. Pit Bulls are listed as potentially dangerous due to their high rates of bites. In California, dog owners inherit full liability and responsibility for any damages caused by their dogs. California residents could also be at risk of a felony charge if they fail to control a potentially dangerous dog and the dog causes serious bodily injury or death to another person. It is important to know all of the laws surrounding dog ownership in California if you own or plan on owning a Pit Bull.

See Also: Are Pitbulls Illegal in Maryland?


Featured Image Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

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