Having the Wrong Dog

A recent, somewhat painful exchange of email between a concerned parent and Attorney Kenneth Phillips illustrates vividly some of the consequences of having the wrong dog. The following is a transcript of their messages:

From the parents of 10-month-old boys who were “nipped” twice by their parents’ dog:

Hello Kenneth:

We have two 10 month old twin babies and a chow/akita mix (3 years old). This morning the dog bit one of our babies in the face (teeth barely broke surface of skin).  This is the 2nd incident of ‘nipping’.

The dog is an important part of our family.  We are considering our options. One idea would be to have the dog live outside more of the time and we would monitor the interactions of the babies and the dog closely. I believe this is unrealistic as we have 3 other kids and many activities and the ability to monitor 24/7 strikes me as impossible.

My question to you is as the babies get older and more physical, have you found that the risk of injury increases or decreases. Thank you in advance [name withheld]

Attorney Kenneth Phillips’ reply to the foregoing email message:

The answer is that yes, there is a substantial risk of a future attack or series of attacks by this dog.

A chow akita mix would be one of the most dangerous dogs in the world. These dogs were bred for guard duty and to bond with only one person in a household. In other words, they can be a threat to everyone else.

When a dog nips, he often goes on to nip harder. If he does, he then may go on to bite. That is what has started here.

Additionally, the threat is not only to your children but to you too. Throughout the USA at this minute, a number of parents are on trial for child endangerment and even homicide because they continued to own dogs that nipped their children, who eventually were seriously injured by the dogs. (See “Mother Appears for Pit Bull Hearing,” Rocky Mountain News, Dec 16, 2005.)

Furthermore, if the dog bites another kid, you will be subject not only to criminal liability but punitive damages because of your knowledge of the dog’s history.

Wait. It gets worse. If you are hit with a judgment of punitive damages, the bankruptcy court will not discharge it. In other words, you will not be able to get around it, even by declaring bankruptcy. It will ruin you financially.

There is simply no justification for keeping this dog. You can replace it with another breed that will be good for your kids and not present you with the daily threat of jail and financial ruin. Not to mention the moral issue of keeping a dog known to be dangerous. That is something that a responsible, caring person should never do.

If you need to see some photos of kids with their faces ripped off, I have them and can show them to you. They will make you sick. But you are on the road to that, and I want to help you make your decision.

You have responsibilities as a parent, and they are not to your dog. Don’t hate me for being the messenger. But it takes a village to raise a child and I have my role in all this. Do the right thing. Sorry.

Kenneth Phillips