Of Cats, Dogs and Children


A few days ago, my 10-year-old daughter suffered a sad experience. She had a pair of finches kept in a cage on our back patio. On one occasion, my wife noticed a cat near the cage, attempting to reach its paw through the cage bars. Fortunately, the cat could not fit its paw through the bars to harm the birds. My wife shooed away the cat, and we assumed that, even if the cat returned, it could do no harm.

Then came the day of infamy. Many days after the cat’s first appearance, my daughter went outside in the morning to feed her birds. She came back inside in a state of inconsolable grief because one of her finches was no more. Without going into the details, the evidence implicating the cat was reminiscent of Eugene Field’s famous poem “The Duel,” in which he describes a confrontation between a gingham dog and calico cat (“Employing every tooth and claw/In the awfullest way you ever say–/And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!”).

While I am unaware of any laws requiring an owner to keep its cat inside or on a leash, there are many cities which require that a dog be kept on a leash. An Arizona statute also makes a dog owner liable for any dog bites to another person. Pet owners—do you know what your pets are doing at night?

More importantly, parents, do you know what your children are doing? There are many reasons why parents should be aware of their children’s behavior, one of which is the Arizona law making parents liable for some injuries caused by their minor children:

Any act of malicious or wilful misconduct of a minor which results in any injury to the person or property of another, to include theft or shoplifting, shall be imputed to the parents or legal guardian having custody or control of the minor . . .
A.R.S. § 12-661(A).

While the application of this statute may vary depending on the specific facts of each situation, it is a good practice, even in strictly legal terms, to teach your children to respect others’ rights and not deliberately injure others. Your neighbors will probably also appreciate it if you keep your cats indoors.

Call us at (480) 833-1113 if you need help with any legal issues regarding your children or pets.

Attorney Profile: Nathaniel Wadsworth, Litigation Attorney


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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