News

A vicious dog is a “deadly weapon” under the law: A video by WCSH-TV tells dramatically about the use of a pit bull to commit robbery and assault, and explains why prosecutors believe that vicious dogs are deadly weapons under the law. The New York Times interviewed Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips for the article, Instruments of Danger in Weapons Case Were Dogs, Authorities Say.

Dog owners can do jail time after dog attacks: Throughout the USA, the owners of pit bulls and other high-risk dogs face criminal charges after significant attacks, and those charges range from criminal negligence all the way to second degree murder. For example, in October 2013 two of the owners of a pit bull that severely mauled one of Mr. Phillips’ 10-year-old clients were sentenced to 6 months in jail for criminal negligence, the maximum sentence under Louisiana law (read the articles, Woman sentenced 6 months after her dog attacks child, and Pit bull attack of girl leads to Roseland woman’s conviction.) For more, see Criminal Penalties for Dog Bites: Felony or Misdemeanor for Using Dog as Deadly Weapon.

Misuse of police dogs: A police watchdog organization has accused the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department of overusing its dogs to bite suspects, rather than to find and corner them. Worse, the overwhelming majority of the victims are black and Latino. National Public Radio interviewed Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips for the article, In Los Angeles County, It’s ‘Bark and Hold’ vs. ‘Find and Bite.

Misuse of service dog designation: Some dog owners disguise their dogs as service animals in order to break laws regarding health and safety, and the practice is causing alarm among the truly disabled. Read Fake Service Dogs a Growing Problem as Pet Owners Flout Disability Rules.

More lawsuits against lax animal control agencies: Two appellate courts have recently affirmed suits against animal control agencies for not taking dangerous dogs off the streeets. See Animal Control Officials May Be Held Liable for Failure to Exercise Expected Law-Enforcement Duties.

Court hits insurance company for abuse of victim: An insurance company that refuses to offer the full policy limit of a dog owner or other defendant before a lawsuit is filed will be required to pay court costs and interest in addition to the full amount of a judgment that goes over the limit of the policy, even if the insurance company offers the policy limit during the pendency of the court case. The purpose of this law is to avoid unnecessary litigation caused by insurance companies that unfairly refuse to pay the amount that their customers “buy” when selecting their insurance policies. The case is Aguilar v. Gostischef.

Three children killed by pit bulls in 5 days: On September 22, 2013, a 2-year-old boy in Gilbert, Arizona, identified only as “David” was killed by his babysitter’s pit bulls, which also turned on the babysitter herself.

The next day, on September 23, 2013, in Colton, California, 2-year-old Samuel Zamudio was killed by his family’s 5 to 7 pit bulls. “His face was all eaten up. He was eaten from the face,” said a witness. His grandmother and uncle have been charged with child endangerment.

On September 27, 2013, a pit bull mauled a 5-year-old boy to death in Baker City, Oregon. Jordan Ryan was at the home of another boy whose parents owned the pit bull.

Almost all fatalities are victims of pit bulls: So far in 2013, pits bulls have been responsible for 19 of the 21 fatal dog attacks upon people. (A 96-year-old man named Juan Campos of Katy, Texas, is thought to be another pit bull victim but results from the autopsy are forthcoming.)

In the United Kingdom, the government has called for public comments regarding a proposal to impose a life sentence on dog owners whose dogs kill a person. Read Owners of killer dogs may face life: Crackdown after 16 fatal maulings in eight years. Interestingly, the USA had 18 fatal maulings in the first 8 months of the year, with pit bulls the killers in 16 of those cases, and yet we have seen no similar effort to increase the penalties here.

More information about death cases: In 2012, there were 37 canine homicides in the USA, the worst year on record. Analysis of the statistics, and links to news articles about each of the deaths, can be found at dogsbite.org. A short summary of each case, going back to 2006, is here on dogbitelaw.com at Canine Homicides: July 2006 to the Present.
Details, prior canine homicides, and other interesting news about dog bites and the law can be found in our News Archive. Join the Dog Bite Law Group on Facebook to discuss all this, and get up-to-the-minute reports @ DogBiteLaw on Twitter.