Most states have laws addressing injuries and damage caused by aggressive dogs. In 18 states, the “One Bite Rule” says that dog owners who have dogs with a history of attacks are automatically liable for all of the expenses the victim acquires due to the dog’s actions. Victims of dogs that attack for the first time are only able to recover medical costs, while the “One Bite Rule” allows victims to recover medical costs, lost income, and possibly collect for pain and suffering in more vicious attacks.
However, what about dog owners who have a history of harboring and being irresponsible for dangerous and aggressive dogs? When you research dog attacks, you will notice that the large majority of the attacks focus on the dog and not as much on the owner. While dog laws are designed to protect the public, they might not go far enough to protect the public from owners who have a history of dangerous pets.
The Haddonfield Doctor Raising Aggressive Dogs
In the New Jersey city of Haddonfield, just across from Philadelphia, lives a doctor whose neighbors insist that he is creating a dog horror story that is a danger to the surrounding area.
In 2009, one of the doctor’s dogs was accused of biting the ear off of a young girl. At the time, the doctor had two dogs and there were numerous reports of incidents between the neighbors and the dogs. The dog who bit the girl was euthanized and the other dog passed away around the same time. For years, the neighborhood was quiet and everything appeared to be safe again.
However, in June 2017, one of the doctor’s neighbors filed a complaint stating that one of his three new dogs attacked and wounded her smaller dog. Another neighbor filed a complaint that the doctor’s dogs ran after the neighbor and the neighbor’s dogs until the neighbor had to kick the dogs to get away from them.
After years of peace and quiet, it looks like the doctor is once again the owner of aggressive dogs that are terrorizing the neighborhood. Both neighbors are considering filing formal charges, which could result in problems for the doctor and his dogs. But there is no local law in place to punish the doctor for having aggressive dogs. The town of Haddonfield is considering creating laws to handle this situation but, like many communities in the United States, there are no laws on the books in Haddonfield to handle a pet owner who consistently has vicious and dangerous pets.
What Can Neighbors Do?
Dog owners are responsible for their pets’ activities as long as the victims:
- Did not provoke the dogs
- Did not ignore warning signs about the dogs
- Did not illegally enter the owner’s property to access the dogs
- Did not take into account a known past history when dealing with a dog
For example, if a visitor to a home knows that the family dog has a nasty side and the visitor gets bit when he corners the dog to try and pet it, then the owner is not normally liable. But if a dog attacks a person or pet due to the negligence of the owner, then the owner can be cited and sued. In most states, it is on a case-by-case basis and not something that is cumulative against one owner.
It Is Not All The Owner’s Fault
There is a common perception that a puppy is a blank canvas that will only turn vicious if the owner trains them that way. According to some dog experts, this is absolutely not true. While a puppy can be significantly influenced by its environment, some dogs are simply vicious from birth. It is important to remember that the idea of a dangerous puppy is not restricted to one breed or type of dog. Any dog can be vicious from birth, and it can be extremely difficult to raise that puppy to be a reliable pet.
The treatment of chronically negligent dog owners varies from community to community. While almost every state offers legal recourse for victims of dog attacks to be compensated for their injuries, it is not common for a community to have laws in place that punish owners who continually create dangerous and aggressive pets.