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Animal Attacks/Bites

How do communities protect against dangerous dogs?

Communities protect against dangerous dogs by educating people about keeping a dog and behaving safely around dogs, by enacting laws (called “dangerous dog laws”) that protect people from dangerous dogs and protect dogs from cruelty, and by enforcing those laws with appropriate penalties.

What is a “dangerous dog law”?

A “dangerous dog law” is a law that sets forth what conduct of a dog and owner shall be illegal (including things like the dog being off leash, trespassing or being at large), establishes consequences for dog and owner, and provides reasonable rights of notice and hearing before the imposition of penalties. This type of law can cover the entire range of unacceptable behavior, everything from biting to trespassing, running at large, or being walked without a leash. It is up to the particular jurisdiction to decide what the dangerous dog law should outlaw.

These laws also can prohibit people from keeping a particular breed of dog that appears to be too risky to the community, or can impose special requirements for keeping such dogs. For example, pit bulls must be “fixed” in many cities and in some places, are not allowed.

A “dangerous dog law” may be the basis for civil liability under the doctrines of negligence and negligence per se, but are only one of a number of potential civil causes of action against the owner of a dog that bites or injures a person.

What is the most important part of a dangerous dog law?

Each jurisdiction must decide exactly what behaviors of the dog and the owner cannot be tolerated. Something which is dangerous in a crowded city would not necessarily be dangerous in a rural area; a dog that guards a property, for example, might be dangerous in an apartment building but a necessity on a farm.

There is no general rule that determines that amount that a surviving victim will receive. The categories of compensation, however, are well established:
Medical treatment such as first aid, emergency room, hospital, and ambulance.
Future medical treatment for scar reduction, pain management, physical therapy, etc.

Psychological counseling to overcome the emotional trauma of the attack, fear of dogs, fear of being outdoors, and dealing with disfigurement.

• Loss of earnings from work or loss of profits at the victim’s business
• Loss of the capacity to earn money in the future as a result of disfigurement or disability
• Veterinary medical treatment for the victim’s dog if it also was injured in the same incident
• Torn clothing and broken glasses
• Medications
• Pain and suffering
• Future disability

What criminal penalties are dog owners subject to?

Dog owners are subject to criminal penalties for a variety of actions that we regard as dangerous toward other people or cruel to the dogs. Owners have been convicted for murder, having too many dogs, allowing their dogs to be outside without a leash, and keeping dogs chained to a tree without food or water. Additionally, all states make it illegal to engage in organized dog fighting, and most states make it a crime to even attend an organized dog fight.

Most of us will never be attacked or severely injured by an animal; however, a recent study showed that 1,000 Americans per day are treated in emergency rooms as a result of dog bites.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by an animal and has suffered serious injury, he or she may be legally eligible to receive compensation from the owner of the animal or another who was responsible for the animal.

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