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Articles Posted in Dog Bites and Animal Attacks

As we prepared today’s blog post, one that starts with a news story that we don’t see every day, we had two primary thoughts: 1) Some things happen more often than you’d think and 2) Even less-than-common legal matters rely on common legal concepts. We’ve written about dog bites previously, but there are a range of other injuries caused by animals. Our San Francisco injury lawyer is prepared to hold animal owners responsible for these incidents using the same legal concepts we use to help many of our deserving clients.

A Look at Circus Animals and Injuries After Elephants Escape Circus Handlers in Missouri

elephant.jpgOver the weekend, The San Francisco Chronicle’s website carried a story from the St. Louis, Missouri that could have taken a much more tragic turn. According to local news authorities, three elephants escaped from the St. Charles Family Arena which was hosting the Moolah Shrine Circus. The three female elephants, which were part of a children’s ride at the event, caused damage to several cars and a loading door when they got away from their handlers. Thankfully, the handlers were able to distract and recapture the elephants before they caused injury to themselves or the gathered crowd.

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We like to think of dogs as “man’s best friend,” and the vast majority of canines are an abiding source of companionship, protection and satisfaction for millions of Americans. However, as a few notorious incidents have demonstrated over the years, some four-legged bad actors have managed to grab the spotlight and give dogs, particularly certain breeds, a reputation for dangerous aggressiveness in dog attacks.

The circumstances where the latter, more hostile tendency comes into play were put on troubling display last month when a 10-year-old Martinez boy was seriously injured by two pit bulls that repeatedly bit him. A report in the Contra Costa Times has shed some new light on the case of Hunter Kilbourn, the injured boy, revealing that an Antioch city staff investigation showed that a second boy was bitten in the same attack in which Kilbourn was mauled. According to the report, a boy at the residence where Kilbourn was playing was bitten by the household dogs when he attempted to pull one of the dogs off Kilbourn. The city report went on to recommend that the two dogs be euthanized.

Dog Bite Incidents Not Uncommon in the United States
Fortunately, Kilbourn has recovered from a majority of the physical injuries he suffered in the Aug. 11 dog attack, but as statistics show, dog bite incidents are a fairly common occurrence in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites, with half of those dog bite victims being children. Of those who are injured in dog bites every year, 386,000 require emergency department treatment and about another 16 die.

While one might consider pit bulls as the most likely suspects in dog bite attacks, it might surprise the public to know that studies have not shown the breed to be disproportionately dangerous. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, controlled studies have found pit bulls to among several breeds, including German shepherds, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Jack Russell Terriers, mixed breeds and others that are highly represented in biting incidents in the United States. However, pit bull-type dogs are more frequently associated with cases in which there has been a severe injury or fatality. But even here the AVMA issues a caveat, saying that the phenomenon may be due to such factors as the popularity of pit bulls in the victim’s community, reporting biases and the dog’s treatment by its owner – for example, cases where pit bulls are used as fighting dogs. Indeed, controlled studies also point out that the pit bull owner’s own behavior, i.e., criminal and/or violent acts, may be an underlying causal factor behind severe or fatal attacks on humans by pit bulls. And to place the point in a geographic perspective, it should be noted that fatalities due to dog attacks in some parts of Canada are linked mainly to sled dogs and Siberian Huskies, breeds that are much more prevalent in some regions of our neighbor to the north.

California Law Specific on Dog Attack Liability
Regardless of the breed of dog involved in an attack upon a human, California law is pretty straightforward when it comes to liability. As stated in California Civil Code Section 3342, “the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
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In the end, the law is an attempt to enforce some of the same basic concepts that lend truth to the maxim that we learn all the really important lessons in kindergarten. One of these basic concepts is responsibility. It is both a simple concept, asking people to account for the results of their choices, and a complex one, giving rise to protracted lawsuits attempting to assign responsibility after a tragic event. For example, who is responsible when a pet attacks? This debate gives rise to protracted litigation in criminal courts, but a blanket rule on civil liability helps avoid this difficult process. By assigning responsibility to pet owners via a strict liability framework, the civil dog bite law helps our San Francisco dog bite injury law firm get justice for those injured by domestic animals.

Criminal Court Considers Charges in Mauling Death of Toddler Under Grandfather’s Care

Over the weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle delved into a pending case in Contra Costa County and the difficulty of determining whether a pet owner bears criminal responsibility for the animal’s acts. Fifty-five year old Steve Hayashi is currently on trial and facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment related to the death of his step-grandson. On July 22, 2010, Hayashi was caring for two year old Jacob Bisbee while his wife slept. He decided to go play tennis, leaving the toddler and his four year old brother unsupervised. Jacob wandered through an unlocked door into a garage area where three of Hayashi’s five pit bulls were located. On a 911 tape recorded some time later, Hayashi’s wife is screaming as she confirms the boy is no longer breathing, having been mauled to death by the animals.

As man’s best friend, the connotation of a dog is usually a happy one. Dogs are generally loyal companions who are trusted and loved. More recently in the news however, a dog mauling of a 6-year-old California boy has startled the dog community and brought up questions about dog safety.

In Union City, just north of San Jose, Nephi Selu was playing in the backyard of his grandparents’ home on Monday, June 17th. The dog a pit bull mix, belonged to the boy’s uncle, a police officer. Family members believe little Nephi may have tried to climb onto the dog’s back, prompting the attack. The dog bit the boy on the top of his head and a relative pulled the dog away from the boy. Family members report that the boy was talking, conscious, and lucid after the attack. The boy was still alive when paramedics were called and Nephi was rushed to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, but he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival – approximately 4 ½ hours after the attack.

pit%20bull.jpgThe pit bull did not have any history of biting anyone previously and was properly licensed. Neighbors confirmed that the dog, one of two pit bulls the family owned, was known to be friendly and were always on a leash. Union City police commander Ben Horner stated that, “It sounds like they were engaged in some type of horseplay with the dog…. We think [Selu] may have tried to ride it like a little horse and for whatever reason, the dog decided to bite him.”

We love pets. Animals, including dogs, can truly become a part of the family. According to WebMD, dogs can even be good for your health helping limit allergies in young children, improving heart health, and even helping their owners make social (or love!) connections. Sadly, however, dogs can also cause significant harm. Dog bites are dangerous, even life threatening. When pets hurt people in the Northern California region, our San Francisco dog bite lawyer can help.

Five Year-Old Bitten By Dog For the Second-Time

A young boy recently became the victim of a dog bite for the second time. As detailed in the San Francisco Chronicle, the five year-old boy was left alone in a room in a Pleasanton apartment where he was bitten in the face by a 96 pound Presa Carnario named Boston. Jeff Bretzing, a Pleasanton lieutenant reported that officers and paramedics found the child with facial injuries. Bretzing noted that the child was taken to a local hospital for treatment of facial wounds. The dog’s owner, Marc Kornberg, was elsewhere in the apartment at the time of the bite. Authorities seized the animal.

Dogs can be wonderful companions. They are loyal, loving, and are often a true member of the family. While most pets are gentle and kind, dangerous dogs are a real concern. As your Sacramento personal injury lawyer and an experienced California dog bite law firm, The Brod Law Firm is prepared to help residents who have suffered injury after being attacked by a dog.

bewaredog.pngThe Sacramento Bee and CBS 13 Sacramento both reported on a vicious pit bull attack on the morning of Saturday January 14, 2011. The attack occurred at a home in South Sacramento on the 7000 block of Third Parkway. Details on the events leading up to the event are limited, but it appears that a nine year-old boy walked from the home into the backyard where the dog was located. The dog severely mauled the child, leaving him with a head injury and damage to his arm. A woman was also injured in the events. Her injuries appear to be less severe and the article reports that she is recovering. A neighbor, Pat Nunes, heard the commotion and helped to free the boy from the dog’s bite. Paramedics and law enforcement responded to the call and contacted Sacramento County Animal Control for additional support. The sheriff’s office reported that an officer did fire his weapon when the dog attempted to leap a fence and escape from the home’s yard. The Bee does not comment on the dog’s fate but CBS’s web site reports that the dog was killed.

California law is particularly strict in cases of dog bites. While some states have a policy that the owner must have been aware of the dog’s viciousness in order to impose civil liability, California does not. Under California Civil Code Section 3342 an owner is automatically liable for the actions of their animal. This is a huge benefit to victims seeking compensation in civil court since they do not need to prove prior knowledge, a tricky and difficult requirement. This strict liability rule does have an exception for cases where the dog was intentionally provoked.

Basketball%20Biter.jpg The Center for Disease Control reports that each year 4.7 million Americans are victims of dog bite attacks. Attacking dogs may puncture a victim’s skin, requiring stitches and leading to risk of infection. Dog bite incidents also cause psychological stress that usually creates fear in the victim of strange dogs in public or private spaces.

800,000 victims seek medical attention for their dog bite related injury, and of those, 31,000 of undergo reconstructive surgery to treat disfiguring scars. The most harrowing injuries occur in cases of attacks to the head and face. Children from the ages of five to nine are the most common victims of serious dog attacks to the head and neck area.

If you or your child is the victim of a dog bite, it is critical that you make a report to the animal control authority in your area. A timely report promotes public safety and also provides important evidence in any hearings related to the dangerous dog. Victims should also seek medical attention to prevent infection or other disease and to help document the incident.

In many states, a dog bite victim must prove that a dog owner had previous knowledge of a dog’s vicious tendencies or that the owner was negligent in preventing an attack. Examples of dog owner negligence include violating leash laws or failure to warn of a dog’s bite triggers.

However, California law imposes strict liability on dog owners. An owner is 100% liable for their dog’s actions, except in cases of intentional provocation. A dog bite victim will not be required to prove that a dog’s owner knew the dog was aggressive or that an owner was negligent to recover damages in a civil case.
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On December 29th, two dogs, a boxer and a Labrador, attacked Bob Ferguson, a 78-year-old IBM retiree, who was walking his small dog in a quiet cul-de-sac in the Blossom Bill neighborhood, according to San Jose Mercury News. Ferguson said that the dogs did not make a sound at the time they charged him. He was bit on his ear, head, and arm and had to go to the emergency, where he received 10 stitches in his ear. He believes he would be dead if a neighbor had not seen the attack and chased the dogs away. Another of Ferguson’s neighbors said the same two dogs attacked his German shepherd just days before, which cost the family $660 at the Veterinarian. They fear the dogs could attack children next.

San Jose city officials have initiated what is called a “dangerous dog attack” investigation based on the attack on Ferguson, and there will be a public hearing to decide what to do about the dogs and the owner. If it is decided that the attack remains in the category of “dangerous” and not “vicious,” then it probable that the dogs will be allowed to live under the condition that their owner buys liability insurance and takes strict measures to secure them. At the end of this story, the main thing Ferguson is left wondering is: “Why would a person living in a quiet neighborhood need two big, threatening dogs for protection?” Here at the Brod Law Firm, we agree. It is unfortunate that some dog lovers place their taste for aggressive dogs above the welfare of their neighbors– a dangerous hobby that seems to be gaining popularity.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to a dog bite and wonder if you have grounds to file a claim, please contact our firm today. Or if you questions regarding Dog Bite Law in California, please contact our Dog Bite Injury Attorney today. Our firm has over 10 years experience fighting for the victims of dog bites, and we have the expertise to win you the compensation you deserve.

Today, the San Francisco Examiner, reported that two dogs were euthanized this week following an attack in Golden Gate Park earlier this month. According to SFGate, on July 1, 2010 three people were attacked by one of two dogs–both of which were running loose through Golden Gate Park. One person, a 70 year old woman, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with bites on her lower legs. An unidentified man in his 40s was taken to UCSF Medical Center with bites on his leg. And another woman had her clothes torn but was not hurt. Both dogs captured at the time of incident were believed to have had bitten the victims, but the city’s Animal Care and Control confirmed later that only one of the animals – an unneutered male pit bull – was believed to be responsible for all the bites. Authorities believe both dogs probably have owners because they were in good health and wearing harnesses. The owners could face civil, criminal or administrative charges.

California dog law allows breeds to be regulated, including requiring them to be spayed and neutered. And San Francisco has its own law that targets pit bulls. Under the ordinance, pit bull owners are required to spay or neuter the breed, and get breeding permits from the city San Francisco’s. The law also allows animal control officers to issue a fix-it ticket to noncompliant dog owners, requiring that the pit bull be sterilized within two weeks. Animal Control officers also hand out information on low-cost and free surgeries. Officers follow up with visits to the homes of owners who have not complied. A first violation can bring a citation and $500 fine and may result in the Department impounding the pit bull and disposing of the pit bull. A second violation of this section by the owner, guardian or keeper, shall be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not to exceed six months or by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by both a fine and imprisonment. In addition, a second violation may result in the Department impounding the pit bull and disposing of the pit bull.

It is important to note that the law is not intended to criminalize bill bull ownership, as it takes into consideration there are a lot of people that can’t afford to spay or neuter their dog, rather it is intended to remove animals that pose a danger. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we believe the law is good for everyone–spaying and neutering is good for pit bulls because it reduceds the number of unwanted pups, and it is good for the citizens of San Francisco, as it stunts aggressive behavior-which can often lead to bites, maulings, or in the most drastic case, killings. No one would disagree that a bite from a pit bull is potentially far more dangerous than a bite from other dogs due to the simple fact that they have more muscle and strength in a single bite. If you have been bitten by a pit bull or any other dog, or, if you have questions regarding dog bit law, please call us.

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