DOG BITES A VICTIMS GUIDE TO DOG BITE LAW
MAN’S BEST FRIEND? DOG BITES: A VICTIM’S GUIDE TO DOG BITE LAW
Go outside on a warm summer’s day and you will inevitably see many people enjoying walks with their dogs; sleek greyhounds, energetic Doberman pinschers, fluffy toy poodles and panting pit bulls all parade through neighborhood parks and sidewalks with their owners. Pet owners claim their furry companions help lower their stress levels and contribute happiness to their lives. The statistics support these claims, demonstrating that pet ownership is extremely popular in the United States. Nearly six out of ten U.S. households include a pet. Indeed, industries catering to the burgeoning American pet population are on the rise, generating more than 9.3 billion dollars on pet food alone.
Along with cats, dogs are the most popular furry companions in the country. Four in ten households in America include a dog. In 1995, the American Kennel Club released a list of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. In descending order, they are the following:
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Gold Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- Yorkshire Terrier
Many of the above breeds make terrific pets. But dog ownership in the United States has a dark side: the increasingly popularity of vicious dogs as pets has led to an increase of dog bites and attacks on innocent victims. In Washington D.C. a pit bull terrier attack on a teenaged girl prompted the city council to restrict ownership of mixed-breed dogs. The Council also passed a law requiring owners of pit bull terriers to muzzle their dogs when in public, to buy extra insurance to pay for injuries should the dog bite someone, and to register them as dangerous dogs.
The pit bull terrier—more commonly known simply as the pit bull—has been singled out as a breed especially prone to vicious attacks, having been so determined because of particular character traits, such as short tempers, great strength and extreme aggression. The Center for Disease Controls and Prevention conducted a study that revealed that pit bulls were responsible for the majority of dog-bite fatalities.There are, however, other breeds which are just as aggressive: Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Akitas are also known for committing large numbers of unprovoked attacks on humans, many of which prove fatal. A study by Merritt Clifton determined that, together with Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Presa Canarios and their mixes were responsible for 74 percent of attacks studied and 65 percent of fatalities.
Defenders of pit bulls and other aggressive dog breeds like Rottweilers and Akitas claim to favor them because of concerns about crime and home security. They view their dogs as home security devices that can successfully ward off burglars and other home invaders. But the fact of the matter is that many of these dogs bite innocent adults and children more often than they do criminals.
DOG BITES: THE LAW AND YOU
Many of the regulations governing household pets, particularly dogs, came into existence in the 1960’s and ‘70s. But these regulations were aimed at reducing pet waste and noise in urban areas. Recently introduced regulations aim to regulate the ownership of so-called dangerous breeds of dogs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year about 20 people are killed, and another 585,000 injured, from dog bites every year nationwide. About 77 percent of dog bites are from the pets of family or friends, and 50 percent of attacks occur on the dog owner’s property.
In many states, dog-bite liability is absolute: that is, should a dog bite another person, the owners of that dog have virtually no defense. In Florida dog bite laws have been changed so that the establishment of prior vicious tendencies is no longer required to prove owner liability. In Texas, the recently established “Lillian’s Law” states that the owner of a dog that causes death or serious bodily harm may be charged with a second- or third-degree felony when the attack takes place outside the dog’s normal place of confinement. And in California, owners of dogs that have perpetrated attacks are subject to massive civil liability penalties. The state allows a victim to sue on two liability causes of action arising out of a single attack: one created by statute and one arising from common law.
BITTEN BY A DOG? FOLLOW THESE FIVE RULES
Dog bites can result in more than just a nasty wound. They can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder and other lasting psychological scars. Some dog-bite related injuries can result in permanent disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge everyone to beware of strange dogs, but they urge that the following populations are especially at risk for dog bites:
- Children. Among children, the rate of dog-bite related injuries is highest for those ages five to nine years.
- Adult males. Adult males are more likely to be bitten than females.
- People with dogs in their homes. The CDC states that adults with two or more dogs in their homes are five times more likely to be bitten than those adults without dogs in their households.
What should you do it you are bitten by a dog? Follow these five rules:
- If the wound is serious, call a medical professional.
- Wash the wound with soap and water.
- Apply pressure with a clean towel to stop any bleeding.
- Keep the injury elevated above the heart to avoid infection and excessive bleeding.
- Report the incident to the proper authority, including the police. Have a report filed.
Should you or a loved one suffer an attack from a dog, it is also important that you contact an attorney. Dog bites can result in long-term injuries and psychological damage, but the law is on your side. Only an attorney trained in handling dog-bite cases will be knowledgeable about the laws governing dog bites in your state. A lawyer trained in such cases will ensure that you receive the settlement you deserve.
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