The case of the injured postal worker in Torrance California (Los Angeles metropolitan area) cries out for punishment of the dog owner and the dog’s custodian at the time of the attack.
On August 20, 2007, a US postal letter carrier was attacked and mutilated as he walked past a residence where a pit bull was playing behind only a 4 foot fence. This was the neighborhood’s regular mailman who was well-known and well liked; he was 60 years old. As happens too often, the pit bull’s killer instinct was aroused for some unknown reason, and it went after him in a savage frenzy. The carrier’s lower lip was split in half, and he also suffered other puncture wounds to the face; at one point the victim was in critical condition, breathing through a tube.
As is typical in these cases, the dog’s owner was not present and reportedly has stated that “Chucky” is a good family dog. The man who was “watching” the dog reportedly has admitted it jumped the same fence only 10 minutes prior to mauling the letter carrier.
The Torrance Municipal Code makes it a violation to “cause, permit, or allow” a dog to run at large on public or private property, without being restrained by a chain or a leash. (Section 41.1.5.) This code section applies not only to the owner but to anybody “having charge, care, custody or control of any dog.” The legal issue would be whether the owner or custodian of Chucky caused, permitted or allowed the dog to run at large in this instance.
I firmly believe that the answer is affirmative. Anyone who is familiar with pit bulls knows that they can easily jump over a 4 foot fence. Use Google to search for “pit bull jump 4 four feet fence” if you have any doubt about how widespread this knowledge is. The renowned dog trainer Fred Hassen showed me a video of one of his pit bulls jumping from the ground to the roof of a house. These are powerful dogs. Putting such a dog behind a 4 foot fence is the equivalent to letting it out without sufficient restraint, which is prohibited by the above quoted ordinance.
The incident has civil ramifications in additional to criminal ones. The postal worker has a claim for compensation against both the owner of the dog and the custodian at the time of the incident. The owner is strictly liable for this attack, and the custodian is also responsible for his negligence in allowing the dog to be inadequately restrained.