According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.5 million dog bite cases are reported each year. DogsBite.Org reported in the past 11 years, 360 people in the United States were killed by dog bites. Pit Bulls were responsible for more than half of that number, killing 232 people. Rottweilers and Pit Bulls were responsible for three-fourths of the 360 deaths.
I represent many clients who are the victims of dog bites and dog attacks in Arkansas. It is my hope by writing this blog that I am able to bring a little more awareness to the number of dog attacks that happen, and how innocent lives can be forever changed through no fault of their own. Knowledge is power. One of the most important things I can say on this subject is that young children should not be allowed to play with any dog without an adult present, this includes the family pet. Studies show that over 50% of bites happen at home with a dog that knows the dog bite victim.
Many of us consider our pets to be another member of the family. It is a well-known fact that dogs are a man’s best friend, can lower our stress levels, provide protection, and can bring us a lot of joy and happiness. However, it is important that we remember that there’s the other side of the coin: Dogs can be dangerous.
Most of us would like to believe that our pets would not harm another person. Most people I talk to say that their dog would not harm a person unless provoked. Unfortunately, in my experience this is not always the case. Many times the dog owner is shocked when their dog bit or attacked another person, especially someone who was not provoking them. I think it’s important to bring awareness to the fact that dogs can be unpredictable. Pet owners should especially be cautious when allowing a dog to be alone with a child. In February of this year, a three-day-old baby in Ohio was bitten on the head by the family dog, and the baby died from the dog bite.
According to studies on DogsBite.org, Pit Bulls outnumber attacks by any other breed of dogs. Reports indicate that they will attack adults and children equally. When Pit Bulls or Rottweilers have a bad moment, the end result may be that person is maimed or killed, not just a bite. One particular study showed that Pit Bulls were the most dangerous breed of dogs, followed by the Rottweiler, Husky, Wolf Hybrid, Bullmastiff, Presa Canario, German Shepherd, Pit bull-mix, Akita, Chow, Doberman, unidentified breeds, Boxer, then German Shepherd-mix breeds.
Who is at a higher risk when it comes to dog bites and attacks?
- Children ages five to nine years old;
What to do if you feel threatened:
- Be still, do not move;
- If a dog knocks you down, immediately roll into a ball and use your hands to protect your head, ears, and neck areas;
- Do not run;
- Do not make direct eye contact with the dog.
If a dog is eating, do not attempt to play with it. It is also not a good idea to play with a dog who is caring for her babies. The dog may go into ‘protect mode’ if you extend your hand toward her. Do not walk up to a dog that you do not know.
I read a tragic and heartbreaking story that happened in Detroit this past December. A woman was walking with her four-year-old son down the street to go to a volunteer project when four Pit Bulls got out of the owner’s backyard. The Pit Bulls charged toward the woman and boy. As the woman and boy tried to back away they tripped and fell, and the Pit Bulls attacked them. The mother tried protecting her child as the vicious Pit Bulls bit her on the back, ear, and leg. Pit Bulls are very strong animals, and sadly the dogs pulled her baby from her arms and dragged him underneath the fence and killed him. The young boy was screaming for his mom to help. She was attempting to get help, but had to watch her son die a horrific death. No parent or child should ever live this nightmare. The owner of the four pit bulls is now facing second-degree murder charges, involuntary manslaughter, and possessing a dangerous animal.
Arkansas law allows two distinct ways that an injured person can recover for their injuries due to a dog bite. A dog owner can be held responsible under a legal doctrine know as strict liability if the dog is of a vicious species or the dog has dangerous tendencies. Arkansas cases even allow recovery under strict liability for dog bites when it is shown the dog barked at times prior to the bite injury.
In addition to recovery for damages under strict liability, Arkansas law allows a dog bite victim to recover for their injuries based upon ordinary negligence. Most cases occur when dogs are kept in violation of a local leash or confinement law. In order to recover, the dog bite lawyer is only required to show that the dog owner failed to exercise ordinary care to control or restrain the dog at the time of the attack.