Articles Posted in Dog Bites In New York

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually, and half of those bitten are children. One in five bitten, or approximately 885,000, need medical attention for their dog bite injuries, and 50% of those are children. Last year, over 27,000 people were required to undergo reconstructive surgery to treat injuries suffered from dog bites. Children ages 5-9 years are most likely to be bitten. reports that on a daily basis, 1000 Americans need emergency medical treatment for a dog bite injury. For a 30 year period from 1982 through 2012, a combination of large “molasser” breeds, including pit bulls, Rottweilers, presa canaries, cane corsos, mastiffs, dogo argentinos and fila brasieros accounted for:
• 79% of attacks causing injuries;
• 72% of attacks on children;
• 85% of attacks on adults;
• 69% of fatal attacks; and

• 77% of maimings.

Pit bulls accounted for almost 60% of fatal dog bite injuries (55 of 88) for a three year period from January of 2006 through the end of December 2008, followed by Rottweilers who were responsible for 14% of these injuries. also determined that pit bulls are responsible for a large majority of off property attacks that result in deaths—pit bulls were responsible for 81% of these attacks. From 2005 through 2012, pit bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 73% of fatal dog bite cases recorded. A report from Animal People, which included data from the United States and Canada from 1982 through 2012, shows that pit bulls caused 245 and rottweilers 84 of a reported 497 total fatal attacks.

There are at least three reasons that pit bulls are more dangerous that other dog breeds. Unlike other types of dogs, pit bulls often fail to demonstrate their intention to attack; they have a lethal style of attack of “holding and shaking”; and pit bulls attempt to inflict maximum injury, known as “gameness.”
Generally speaking, dogs that bite are 6.6 times more likely to be male than female, 2 ½ more times more likely not be neutered, and almost 3 times as likely to be chained as unchained.

Under New York State law, in order to recover against the owner of a dog (or the property owner where the dog is kept), you must be able to prove that the dog owner or property owner “knew or should have known” of the “vicious propensities” of the dog. This means that you must be able to prove, for example, that the dog had previously bitten someone else, or demonstrated dangerous tendencies previously, such as growling at other people, showing his or her teeth, jumping on people in a menacing fashion, or showing other behavior which would put the dog owner or property owner “on notice” that the dog was dangerous.

The CDC provides basic safety advice to provide to children (which is also applicable to adults, of course) when approaching an unfamiliar dog, including:
• Not petting an unfamiliar dog without allowing it to sniff you first;
• Not disturbing a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies;
• Avoiding direct eye contact with the dog;
• If knocked over by the dog, roll into a ball and be still; and

• Remaining motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.

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We have been receiving more calls from clients who suffered dog bites by pit bulls, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, and numerous other breeds. If this happens to you, what do you do to protect your legal rights?

First, make sure that you obtain the owner’s information, especially the address, and find out as much information as you can about the dog–its name, whether it has been licensed, had all of its shots, and most importantly, had the dog bitten anyone previously–this is critical information as will be discussed further below.

Second, if a cell phone or camera is available, take photographs of the dog, and of the property where you suffered the injury.

Third, you must report the incident to the police so that there is an official report. Make sure that the police officer investigating the incident questions the dog owner about rabies shots and prior bites by the dog. The issue of previous attacks or bites by the dog is vital to a successful claim against the dog owner, based on the legal concept of notice. Notice means that the dog owner knew (or should have known) that his or her dog was dangerous based upon a previous attack, yet did not properly restrain or fence in the dog to prevent future attacks.

Fourth, obtain prompt medical attention for your injuries at an emergency room or your private doctor. It is very important to confirm with the triage nurse or staff at the doctor’s office that they described the incident accurately, including where the dog bite happened, how it happened, and when it took place. We have seen numerous situations in which hospitals do not accurately describe the circumstances of an incident, which causes many complications when we are attempting to resolve the case for the client.

Fifth, obtain a copy of the police report of the incident if some time has passed before you seek legal counsel. If there are any inaccuracies in the police report, you should notify the department immediately that you wish to file an amended report so that all information in the report is correct.

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If you are bitten by a pit bull in a Bronx County dog bite incident, for example, here is a list of what you should and should not do:

Find out immediately from the dog owner if the animal has had its rabies shots so you are aware of the extent of this potential risk;

Try to locate and identify any witnesses to the dog bite, and if possible, obtain the names, addresses and phone numbers of these witnesses;

90 year old Henry S. Piotrowski of Staten Island was mauled by two pit bulls in his yard earlier this month, causing severe injuries which required doctors at Richmond Hospital to amputate one leg. The two male pit bulls were apparently owned by Mr. Piotrowski’s neighbor, and managed to get into the yard through a fence which separated Mr. Piotrowski’s house from the dog owner’s residence. Another neighbor, Reginald Bell, stopped the pit bull attack by scaring the dogs off with a butcher knife. He described the attack as like “lions attacking a gazelle.” The dogs were found by police around the corner, corralled, and taken to a Brooklyn shelter, where they were euthanized.

Under New York State law, a dog owner will be found legally responsible if he or she knew or should have known of the “vicious propensities” of their dog. Generally speaking, Pit Bulls are frequently believed to be dangerous by a large segment of the public, but the law does require that the dog owner have prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous (through prior bites or menacing) before they will be held legally responsible.

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The Law in New York regarding dog bites has been relatively unchanged for many years. In order to be found at fault if your dog bites someone, the key issue is whether you knew, or should have known, of the dog’s “vicious propensities.” Vicious propensities include the tendency to do any act which might endanger the safety of persons or property in a given situation.

Examples of vicious propensities include a previous bite first and foremost, but would also include growling, chasing, lunging at, snapping, or baring of teeth. Although there is a widespread belief that owners are entitled to “one free bite”, by which they are not responsible until their dog has bitten someone on two occasions, this is not the law in New York. Simply put, a prior bite is not required to prove “vicious propensities.” Further, although a jury might be more inclined to believe this, there is no specific provision of the law by which dogs such as pit bulls or German Shepards are automatically considered more dangerous.

The key factor is the owner’s knowledge concerning the likelihood that his or her dog might harm another person.

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