Many Californians adopt dogs from shelters each year to give them a better life while adding important members to their families. While adopting shelter dogs is admirable, people who adopt dogs should know whether they have a propensity to bite. Unfortunately, dog bites are a prevalent problem. According to, an estimated 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year.[1] In 2019, 48 people were killed in the U.S. in dog attacks. California led the nation in fatal dog bites with nine residents losing their lives. Because of these problems, the state legislature responded by passing a bill that mandates greater responsibilities for shelters to track and report dogs that bite. This law is meant to help people make better-informed decisions when they are searching for dogs to adopt.

What does the law require?

Cal. AB 588 was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Newsome on Oct. 2, 2019. It was effective immediately. Under this law, animal shelters must provide people with the history of their dogs at the time that they adopt them, including information about whether the dogs have bitten people in the past. Dog bites that have broken through the skin must be reported, and animal shelters and rescue agencies must provide details of the circumstances that surrounded the bites. Any person buying or adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue agency must sign a paper acknowledging that they have been informed about the dog’s history of biting.