It is always a good idea to be careful around animals you are unfamiliar with. But sometimes even the most cautious person can be the victim of a vicious or poorly-trained animal.
Here are some things you should know in case you or a loved one are attacked by an aggressive dog:
- New York allows all dogs “one free bite”: In order to succeed in a lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to show that the dog’s owner knew, or should have known, of the animal’s violent propensities. This is known as the “one free bite” rule, because the first time the owner sees the dog bite someone, he or she is put on notice of the behavior and is legally responsible if another instance occurs.
The problem with this rule is that it is often very difficult to prove that the animal in question ever acted violently before. Many attorneys will tell a potential client that unless they have evidence of prior incidents involving this specific animal, they will not take the case.
- Choose an attorney who will be proactive in investigating clues of any previous attacks. This requires thinking outside the box. Hiring a private investigator to look into the matter is a good start. Here are some ways to see if evidence of prior bad behavior exists:
- Interview the dog owner’s neighbors to find out if they have seen or heard of the animal attacking anyone before;
- Interview the postal carrier or UPS/Fedex delivery person to see if they’ve had any prior incidences with the animal in question;
- Obtain the veterinary records of the dog. Veterinarians often make notations in an animal’s chart regarding its potentially violent or aggressive nature.
- Observations about the appearance of the dog or its breed can be a determinative factor in whether the case may be allowed to proceed to trial:
- If a dog has a metal chain around its neck, or has been tied or leashed in a particularly stringent manner, or if there is “Beware of Dog” signage, this might indicate to a court that the owner had suspicions of the pet’s aggression, and could be a deciding factor for the court whether or not to dismiss the case.
- Sometimes the nature of the breed itself might compel a judge to allow the case to proceed. For instance, if the dog was a German Shepherd, a Rottweiler or a Pit Bull, it could have an effect, given the potential for these breeds to inflict serious injury or death.
The bottom line: Unless there exists a video of the dog biting someone previously, the issue of whether there is sufficient evidence of a previously displayed violent propensity by the animal in question depends upon the facts and circumstances you are able to present to the court.
Have you ever had a close call with a vicious dog?