book gavelA person who is injured by a dog should not testify at a “dangerous dog hearing” unless she is represented by an attorney who is entitled to fully participate in the proceedings, an experienced lawyer presides over the hearing, and the attorney defending the dog is confined to producing evidence about the dog’s suitability.

The victim should not communicate with animal control authorities until her lawyer reviews the city and county ordinances, obtains the department’s committment as to which laws and procedures they will be following, and is satisfied that the issues addressed below will be resolved fairly.

Furthermore, the victim should not release all hospital or other medical records for use in such hearings.

If the governing city or county ordinance does not protect the victim’s rights, and if the attorney for the dog owner refuses to cooperate, then the victim should be advised that she should not participate. (This advice assumes that the animal control department does not have subpena power; if it does, then the subpena must be obeyed but the victim’s attorney should advise the victim as to its bounds.)

City, county and state lawmakers need to revise existing dangerous dog laws and dog court procedures so that the dog owner’s right of due process does not eclipse the victim’s right of privacy, her right to seek compensation under the rules of fairness of our civil justice system, and the public’s right to streets that are safe from killer dogs.