NY Attorney Comments on Local Dog Bites and Dog Attacks

On a beautiful afternoon, like many in the Twin Tiers, I can certainly see the appeal of wandering around downtown Ithaca and shopping in The Commons. What I often do not factor into this idyllic scene, however, is the danger of dogs.

Authorities in Ithaca are seeking a puppy after it bit a man in the Ithaca Commons. What is especially amazing to me about this incident is that the dog was on a leash and with its owner. The victim reached down to pet the dog and was then bitten.

This incident is only one of several recent dog bites in Ithaca, including incidents in October and December.

Our firm has represented many victims of dog attack and bite cases, so we know the permanent physical and emotional scars that can be left after these frightening incidents.

In a world in which half a million people bit by dogs last year required hospitalization, these bites are a reminder of the dangers that even friendly-looking dogs can pose.

These bites are also a reminder to socialize your dogs, especially when they are between the ages of 8-12 weeks. While many of us at Ziff love animals ourselves, it is important to stay safe and recognize the potentially dangerous nature of dogs.

If you or someone you know has a question about dog attacks or bites, please call us at 1-800-ZIFFLAW or email us at [email protected]. We would be happy to talk to you about your legal rights and options and try to answer your questions.  

Thanks, Christina

______________________________
Christina Bruner Sonsire, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
[email protected]
Office: 607.733.8866
Toll-Free: 800.ZIFFLAW (943.3529)
Web:zifflaw.com
Blog: NYInjuryLawBlog.com


Doggone Safe: Website for Dog Bite Prevention, Support for Dog Bite Victims

In April of 1998, 8-year-old Courtney Trempe of Stouffville, Ontario, Canada was killed by a neighbor’s dog.

During the inquest, the jury created a list of 36 recommendations they felt would help prevent such a tragedy from occuring again.

Many of their ideas stressed the vital importance of education and information:

  • Teach children about safety around dogs
  • Help dog owners understand why they must responsibly train and enclose their pets
  • Enlist the media’s help to spread information about dog bite prevention and cases
  • Urge lawmakers to hold dog owner’s liable and enact stringent penalties for negligence,
  • and help dog-bite victims recover – physically and emotionally

Courtney’s case, the jury’s recommendations, and public concern over the senseless tragedy all contributed to the formation of Doggone Safe, a nonprofit group based in Ontario.

I’ve represented many dog bite victims during my years as a NY and PA personal injury attorney, and written about New York state’s dog bite laws and what to do in the aftermath of a dog bite attack here on the NY Injury Law Blog. My posts came to the attention of Joan Orr, the president of Doggone Safe. She e-mailed me and asked for permission to link to some of my posts – and I’m very happy to spread the word about Doggone Safe and the resources the organization has available online.

Doggone Safe is devoted to the goals I’ve mentioned and more. The site offers prevention advice, article links and information, statistics, and recovery information for dog-bite victims.

According to Doggone Safe’s statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 133,000 American children under age 14 were bitten in 2001. And according to the CDC, the rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those children ages 5 to 9. What’s more, children are far more likely than adults to require medical attention.

On the hopeful side, the CDC also says that recent research shows that the rate of dog–bite related injuries among children seems to be decreasing. I think it is owing to education – the efforts of organizations like Doggone Safe.

Please visit the Doggone Safe website, which is packed with information about dog behaviour and preventing attacks. You can also learn more about Courtney Trempe and the memorial fund created in her name for dog-bite victims. For more information, visit www.doggonesafe.com, the blog, www.doggonesafe.blogspot.com, or call Doggone Safe at (877) 350-3232.

Related posts:

“Dangerous Dog Law in New York State: The Basics Explained by NY Dog Attack Lawyer”

“Vicious Propensities: Dog Owners’ Liability and Responsibility to Spot Warning Signs of Attack”

“More About Dangerous Dogs: What to Do if You are a Victim of a Dog Attack”

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Jim

______________________________________
James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Personal Injury Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] http://www.zifflaw.com
E-mail me at [email protected] for two free books:
NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.

Doggone Safe Website offers Support and Advice to Dog Bite Victims

In April of 1998, 8-year-old Courtney Trempe of Stouffville, Ontario, Canada was killed by a neighbor’s dog.

During the inquest, the jury created a list of 36 recommendations they felt would help prevent such a tragedy from occuring again.

Many of their recommendations stressed the vital importance of education and information:

Teach children about safety around dogs

Help dog owners understand why they must responsibly train and enclose their pets

Enlist the media’s help to spread information about dog bite prevention and cases

Urge lawmakers to hold dog owner’s liable and enact stringent penalties for negligence,

And help dog-bite victims recover – physically and emotionally.

Courtney’s case, the jury’s recommendations, and public concern over the senseless tragedy all contributed to the formation of Doggone Safe, a nonprofit group based in Ontario.

I’ve represented many dog bite victims during my years as a NY and PA personal injury attorney, and written about New York state’s dog bite laws here on the NY Injury Law Blog. My posts came to the attention of Joan Orr, the president of Doggone Safe. She e-mailed me and asked to link to some of my posts – and I’m very happy to spread the word about Doggone Safe and the resources the organization has available online. Doggone Safe is devoted to the goals I’ve mentioned and more (you can read the full list of the inquest recommendations here, http://www.doggonesafe.com/resources/Downloads/Inquest_Recommendations.pdf).

According to Doggone Safe’s statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 133,000 American children under age 14 were bitten in 2001. And according to the CDC, the rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those children ages 5 to 9. What’s more, children are far more likely than adults to require medical attention.

On the hopeful side, the CDC also says that recent research shows that the rate of dog–bite related injuries among children seems to be decreasing. I think it is owing to education – the efforts of organizations like Doggone Safe.

Please visit the Doggone Safe website, which is packed with information about dog behaviour and preventing attacks. You can also learn more about Courtney Trempe and the memorial fund created in her name for dog-bite victims. For more information, visit www.doggonesafe.com, the blog, www.doggonesafe.blogspot.com, or call Doggone Safe at (877) 350-3232.

Thanks for reading and stay safe,
Jim


More About Dangerous Dogs: What to Do if You are a Victim of a Dog Attack

Vicious-dog-imageBecoming a victim of a dog attack can be a devastating experience – both physically and emotionally. The physical wounds can range from cuts, to broken bones to disfiguring or even life-threatening injuries.

The emotional after-effects can be even more severe.  Dog attacks may affect the life of the victim in many ways:

Attacks may cause the victim to miss work and may result in a complete change in the victim’s life due to the injuries.

Many victims must deal with concerns such as stress or depression due to physical and financial limitations as a result of the attack.

Victims may also have to deal with the psychological symptoms due to experiencing a traumatic situation that may range from fear to flashbacks or anywhere in between.

Finally, victims may be terrified to deal with dogs and may be robbed of the wonderful experience of owning a pet.

Who is considered a victim of a dog attack? Those who are attacked by a dog are the obvious victims.  However, some folks find it surprising that those injured fleeing a potential attack also have legal options.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Attacked?

If you have become a victim of a dog attack, there are some steps that you should take. 

  • First, seek medical attention. Whether you call 911 or go to the hospital on your own, DO NOT WAIT.
  • Second, call the police or animal control as soon as possible to let them know that you were attacked. It is especially important to call the police or animal control quickly when the dog is loose or you do not know who it belongs to; a prompt call may allow them to find the dog.  Unfortunately, without the dog or knowledge of who owns dog, treatment may be more difficult for you, others may be in danger of similar injury and future legal proceedings may be impossible.
  • Third, when speaking with police, animal control and medical providers, ask for documentation. If no documentation is available at the time, ask for report numbers or names of the individual you are talking to. Fourth, document your injuries, medical visits and experiences through pictures and notes.   This will help you remember what you’ve gone through as a result of this injury and may be of help in future legal proceedings.
  • Finally, do not hesitate to contact an attorney that specializes in this type of case. Most clients feel that having someone going through the process with them is immensely helpful.  Ziff Law can help; we have years of experience handling this type of case.

What Happens in the Legal System?

In New York, there are a few different avenues to deal with dog attacks that provide different outcomes.  First, there is a dangerous dog proceeding.  In addition, there is a civil case against the owner of the dog.
What happens in each? Below, I will explain both types of proceedings briefly including what the proceeding is, what it is used for and how it may affect you, the owner and the dog. For further questions, help with the process, or to talk about your case, please feel free to call the Ziff Law Firm for expert advice.

Dangerous Dog Proceeding

A dangerous dog proceeding is a proceeding under Section 121 of Agriculture and Markets Law.  See the blog post ” ‘Dangerous Dog’ Law in New York State” for a more detailed description.  However, basically, a dangerous dog proceeding is a proceeding to impose penalties on the owner for having a dangerous dog which allows society to place controls on the dog.

As a victim of a dog attack, your involvement in this process will be contacting animal control and asking for a dangerous dog proceeding if animal control does not already suggest it. The proceeding is usually held in a local court and you may have to testify at the proceeding to help prove that it is “more likely than not that the dog attacked or threatened to attack.”  If the court finds that the dog was dangerous, the court will impose penalties against the owner and dog.

How does this proceeding affect the owner, the dog and you? Typically, the owner will only be fined unless the dog has attacked in the past; if the dog has attacked in the past it is possible that the owner may go to jail for up to 1 year.

Will the dog be euthanized or “put down”? Although many believe that this happens frequently, in reality, the opposite is true. Euthanizing a dog is a last resort and typically the court does not decide to do that unless the dog’s attack causes death or serious injury to a person or other animal or the dog has attacked in the past.  Rather, if the court finds that the dog is dangerous, they will likely impose other restrictions on the owner and dog to keep society safe from the animal.  For example, the court may require the pet be trained, require leashing or muzzling when in public and/or request confinement, among other things.

As a victim of a dog attack, a dangerous dog proceeding may help you by covering some of the costs of your injuries.  However, the costs are the only things that are covered.  Therefore, to reach additional expenses including emotional injuries or costs due to loss of work, a civil case against the owner is necessary.

A Civil Case: Liability Against the Pet’s Owner

As discussed above, bringing a civil case against a dog owner is different than a dangerous dog proceeding.  A civil case focuses on whether the owner is at fault, i.e., liable, and should pay for the victim’s expenses; therefore, a civil case is more about the victim’s experience than a dangerous dog proceeding.

For an owner to be held responsible for their dog’s attack in a civil case, it must be proved that the dog had “vicious propensities.” This concept is fairly complex; for more details see my “Vicious Propensities” posting.

However, in short, we can think of vicious propensities as something in the past that should have tipped off the owner that the dog might have a tendency to attack.  In a civil case, a jury decides whether the dog’s past actions were enough to “tip off” the owner by considering whether a reasonable person would have thought that the dog might attack. (For more details about what past juries have considered enough to hold owners responsible, you should also check see my “Vicious Propensities” posting on this blog.)

Unlike a dangerous dog proceeding, a civil case does not fine an owner or place controls on the dog; in fact, a civil case does not have any effect on the dog responsible for the attack.  Rather, a civil case compensates the victim for the losses associated with the attack if a jury believes the owner should have known the vicious propensity of his or her pet.

As a victim of a dog attack, a civil case may be helpful because it can allow you to recover additional costs related to the incident that would not be permitted in a dangerous dog proceeding.

In Summary

The dangerous dog proceeding and the civil case have different effects on the parties involved.  There are a few main differences:

  1. A dangerous dog proceeding may impose for some restrictions on the attacking dog, e.g., requiring a leash, muzzle or training and, in extreme cases, euthanasia; a civil case cannot impose restrictions on the attacking pet.
  2. A civil case allows for more compensation for a dog attack; a dangerous dog proceeding allows only costs to be covered.

Surprisingly, there is also some overlap between dangerous dog proceedings and civil cases. A finding of a dog as dangerous can be helpful in establishing vicious propensities of the dog in a civil case.

Can I proceed with both? It is possible to proceed with both. In fact, many people often find it satisfying to proceed with both because they are able to be involved in protecting others from a similar experience by helping to impose controls on the attacking pet as well as making sure they, as a victim, are fully compensated for their injuries and losses.

This article has been written to give you a very basic idea of what to do if you have been a victim of a dog attack.  Being such can be a very traumatic and difficult experience. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected] or call 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529) to discuss your legal options.

Thanks,

Jim

_________________________________
James B. Reed
NY & PA Dog Bite Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Phone: (607) 733-8866 Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll-free: (800)-943-3529

mailto:[email protected] www.zifflaw.com


“Vicious Propensities”: Dog Owners’ Liability and Responsibilty to Spot Warning Signs of Attack

angry-dog-biting-fenceWhat are “vicious propensities”?

As an New York dog bite and dog attack attorney, I am ready to clear up some of the confusing and complicated terms that come up in dog attack cases.

A key element in many such cases is the owner’s knowledge of their dog’s “vicious propensities.” This knowledge – that the animal presented a risk – is required to prove liability in New York dog attack cases. (See my related post “When Dogs Attack: ‘Vicious Propensities’ and Owner Liability Under New York State Law” for more information on this topic).

Just what are vicious propensities? Vicious propensities are something about a dog’s behavior that should have tipped off the owners that the dog might have the tendency to attack. In a dog attack case, the jury decides this based on the facts and actions in the individual case. Below are some things that have indicated vicious propensity in dogs involved in past cases:

  • jumping aggressively against a fence,
  • barking and growling, snapping, showing its teeth,
  • prior attacks of people by the dog and past declaration of a dog as a “dangerous dog.” See the “Dangerous Dogs in New York” post on this blog for more details on what a dangerous dog is.

However, there are some less obvious indications of vicious propensity:

  • keeping a dog for use as a guard dog,
  • constructing a pen or fence to keep the dog away from visitors due to past problems,
  • “beware of dog” and similar signs,
  • verbal warnings to people not to enter the property because the dog was loose on the property,
  • records indicating the dog was aggressive,
  • the type and severity of the attack on the victim,
  • sometimes, past attacks on other animals.

Again, though, these things are just indications that may help prove vicious propensity.

It is important to remember that just because this has lead a jury to believe or not believe in “vicious propensity” in the past does not mean a jury in every situation will agree. The court and jury will look at all the facts of the situation including how often the dog displayed these propensities, whether it was only directed at a few individuals or all individuals and whether the dog’s vicious propensities are similar to the circumstances of the victim’s attack. For example, if the victim was attacked while walking to a mailbox and the information presented on the dog only showed that the dog barked aggressively at cars, that might not be sufficient to make the owner aware of the dog’s vicious propensities.

The court cannot decide a dog has vicious propensities based SOLELY on their size or breed. For instance, some people have argued that certain breeds (e.g. pit bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweiler’s) should be considered “vicious” just be virtue of the stereotyped nature of the breed as aggressive or vicious. The N.Y. courts have rejected this argument and accordingly, the breed of the dog, standing alone, will NOT be considered proof of the vicious propensity of a particular dog from that breed.

Does the victim have to prove that the owner actually knew his or her dog was vicious?

It is not required that a victim of a dog attack actually prove that the owner KNEW the dog had vicious propensities. That would be very difficult to prove what someone else actually knew. Rather, the victim must prove that that dog had certain vicious propensities. If the vicious propensities shown are enough, the court or jury will decide for the injured person based on the idea that a “reasonable person” would have known that their pet had vicious propensities.

Is there a “One Bite Rule” in New York state dog attack cases?

Some people believe that a “one bite rule” exists. A “one bite rule” requires that a dog must have bit a person prior to the current dog attack; therefore, a dog would have to bite on two different occasions before the owner could get in trouble. Under the “one bite rule,” each dog was allowed “one free bite.”

There is not a “one bite rule” in New York. Therefore, a dog can be found to have vicious propensities without having EVER bitten or attacked in the past, rather, other things such as a dog growling, jumping or being used as a guard dog is sufficient.

In other words, dogs in New York do not get “one free bite.” BUT, just because a dog has attacked a person prior does not necessarily mean the jury will find a dog has vicious propensities, either. The jury has to decide whether the prior incident should have made the owner’s aware of the dog’s tendency to attack. Although it is likely the prior attack will result in a finding of vicious propensities, it is not a sure thing.

We hope you found this information helpful. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack or dog bite please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or call 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529) to discuss your legal options.

Thanks,

Jim
_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Dog Bite Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Phone: (607) 733-8866 Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll-free: (800)-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] www.zifflaw.com


Dog Attacks: Vicious Propensities

What Are “Vicious Propensities”?

An owner’s knowledge of their dog’s vicious propensities are required to prove liability in New York dog attack cases. See the “Liability in Dog Attacks” blog for more information on this. But, what are vicious propensities? Vicious propensities are something about a dog’s behavior that should have tipped off the owners that the dog might have the tendency to attack. In a dog attack case, the jury decides this based on the facts and actions in each case. Below are some things that have indicated vicious propensity in past cases.

Some examples of vicious propensities may seem obvious: jumping aggressively against a fence, barking and growling, snapping, showing its teeth, prior attacks of people by the dog and past declaration of a dog as a “dangerous dog.” See the “Dangerous Dogs in New York” blog for more details on what a dangerous dog is.

However, there are some less obvious indications of vicious propensity: keeping a dog for use as a guard dog, constructing a pen or fence to keep the dog away from visitors due to past problems, “beware of dog” and similar signs, verbal warnings to people not to enter the property because the dog was loose on the property, records indicating the dog was aggressive, the type and severity of the attack on the victim and, sometimes, past attacks on other animals.

Again, though, these things are just indications that may help prove vicious propensity. It is important to remember that just because this has lead a jury to believe or not believe in “vicious propensity” in the past does not mean a jury in every situation will agree. The court and jury will look at all the facts of the situation including how often the dog displayed these propensities, whether it was only directed at a few individuals or all individuals and whether the dog’s vicious propensities are similar to the circumstances of the victim’s attack. For example, if the victim was attacked while walking to a mailbox and the information presented on the dog only showed that the dog barked aggressively at cars, that might not be sufficient to make the owner aware of the dog’s vicious propensities.

The court can not decide a dog has vicious propensities based SOLELY on their size or breed. For instance, some people have argued that certain breeds (e.g. pit bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweiler’s) should be considered “vicious” just be virtue of the stereotyped nature of the breed as aggressive or vicious. The N.Y. courts have rejected this argument and accordingly, the breed of the dog, standing alone, will NOT be considered proof of the vicious propensity of a particular dog from that breed.

Does the Victim Have to Prove that the Owner ACTUALLY Knew Their Dog Was Vicious?

It is not required that a victim of a dog attack actually prove that the owner KNEW the dog had vicious propensities. That would be very difficult to prove what someone else actually knew. Rather, the victim must prove that that dog had certain vicious propensities. If the vicious propensities shown are enough, the court or jury will decide for the injured person based on the idea that a “reasonable person” would have known that their pet had vicious propensities.

IS THERE “A One Bite Rule” IN NEW YORK DOG ATTACK CASES?

Some people believe that a “one bite rule” exists. A “one bite rule” requires that a dog must have bit a person prior to the current dog attack; therefore, a dog would have to bite on two different occasions before the owner could get in trouble. Under the “one bite rule”, each dog was allowed “one free bite.”

There is not a “one bite rule” in New York. Therefore, a dog can be found to have vicious propensities without having EVER bitten or attacked in the past, rather, other things such as a dog growling, jumping or being used as a guard dog is sufficient. In other words, dogs in New York do not get “one free bite.” BUT, just because a dog has attacked a person prior does not necessarily mean the jury will find a dog has vicious propensities, either. The jury has to decide whether the prior incident should have made the owner’s aware of the dog’s tendency to attack. Although it is likely the prior attack will result in a finding of vicious propensities, it is not a sure thing.


When Dogs Attack: “Vicious Propensities” and Owner Liability Under New York State Law

Dog-on-a-leashTo many people, dogs truly are “man’s best friend.” Certainly, dogs can be wonderful companions and add much to people’s lives.

As a dog lover and past Board member for the Chemung County SPCA, I wholeheartedly agree with all the great sentiments about dogs and the joy that they can bring.

Unfortunately, however, some folks do not realize the responsibilities that come with dog ownership – including controlling your dog and keeping it appropriately fenced or leashed. Often, not controlling or appropriately containing a pet hurts the pet. A dog can easily be the victim of an accident or become lost. In other scenarios, a dog owner’s lack of responsibility hurts other people. Our law firm has seen too many people scared for life from a dog attack or avoiding a dog attack.

When can someone be held responsible for a dog attack?

There is no easy answer to this question. It is more of step-by-step process, decided by a series of standards:

First, was the injured party bit by the dog or hurt while avoiding a dog? When people think of this area of law, many folks think an actual attack is required, but a pet owner can be held responsible if someone is injured fleeing a dog when they believe they are going to be attacked.

Second – and it gets more complicated here – did the dog owner know the dog had “vicious propensities” as is required under N.Y. dog bite law?

“Vicious propensity”… what in the world is that and what does it mean?

Like many things in the law, the answer to is: It’s complicated. See my related post, “Vicious Propensities”: Dog Owners’ Liability and Responsibilty to Spot Warning Signs of Attack” for details.

For the purposes of this post and simply put, it means: Could something about the dog’s behavior have tipped off the owners that this dog might have the tendency to attack someone? It could be something obvious – like vicious growling or biting in the past. However, it could be something less obvious – such as use as a guard dog.

The determination of whether a dog has exhibited vicious propensities must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Clearly, a prior attack or bite by the dog constitutes a vicious propensity, but short of a previous attack or bite, the determination must be based upon the facts of this particular dog’s history.

Can owners be held responsible if their dog is NOT LEASHED and it attacks?

Many municipalities in New York state, including Elmira, have leash laws whereby an owner can be fined for not keeping a dog confined or on a leash. But what about their being held liable in a civil proceeding if their dog is not leashed or confined and it attacks?

In the past, an owner could be held liable through negligence if a person was injured by a dog attack while the owner was violating the leash law.

Negligence? Generally, negligence means having a responsibility to act a certain way and then not doing it.However, it is a bit more complex and usually broken down into parts.

Specifically, negligence means that someone has a duty to do something, that duty is not completed and not following the duty caused the injury with damages. For example, if there was a duty to leash a dog, the owner did not leash it, the dog ran away from the owner and bit someone because it was loose, the person had medical bills and lost work, etc, that would amount to negligence.

Being held responsible for a dog biting when off a leash makes sense, right? After all, if the owner is supposed to keep a dog on a leash and does not, the owner should be held responsible if a person is hurt as a result of the pet being loose. The attack probably would not have happened if they were following the rules! Unfortunately, though, the high court of New York, the Court of Appeals, recently disagreed in the case of Petrone v. Fernandez.

N.Y. Courts take a step backward …

In Petrone v. Fernandez, a dog was not leashed or fenced, in violation of a local leash law. A mail carrier was delivering mail when she turned around to see a large dog running at her, only about six feet way. The mail carrier ran and attempted to jump in her car.

While jumping in her car through the window, her hand was stuck outside the car and she injured her finger, causing her pain for several months, missed work and was only able to engage in limited activities. She sued and, although the incident likely would not have happened had the dog been leashed, the court said that violating a leash law, although an indication of the owners’ negligence, was not enough to hold the pet’s owners responsible.

What does that all mean? It means that, as a result of this case, indications of negligence by the owners, including violating the law by not keeping the pet on a leash, is not enough is make an owner liable. In other words, negligence is NOT enough; the ONLY way that an owner can be held responsible is if they knew the dog had vicious propensities.

Why did the Court of Appeals change the law in the Petrone case?

Why the change and why discourage responsibility? Hard to say.

The court may want to simplify these cases and make them more “cut and dried” or maybe they think that violation of a leash law is not a good enough indication that the owners should be held responsible for their pet’s actions. Maybe they want to limit the cases on this subject.

Whatever the reason, it seems unlikely that insisting on the foreknowledge of “vicious propensities” will make things simpler or do justice to people who have been attacked.

Is it really fair to make someone that has been injured jump through hoops to prove that an owner knew of his or her dog’s vicious propensities – even when the incident likely would not have happened if the owner followed the law? And, what if no vicious propensities can be found – should a victim of such an incident be left without compensation and justice? We do not think so.

We hope you found this information helpful. Be sure to look at our other posts on dog bites and dog attacks here on the NY Injury Law Blog.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack or dog bite, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or call 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529) to discuss your legal options.

Thanks,

Jim
_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Dog Bite Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Phone: (607) 733-8866 Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll-free: (800)-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] www.zifflaw.com


“Dangerous Dog” Law in New York State: The Basics Explained by NY Dog Attack Lawyer

Angry-DogSad to say, but over the years I have handled way too many cases on behalf of people who have been badly injured when mauled in a dog attack or dog bite case.

I am a dog lover myself (and a former Board member of our local SPCA), but the fact remains: not all dogs are safe or fit to be around people.

In this post, I want to explain the basics of dog bite and dog attack law in New York. Of course, because I’m just covering the basics here, I welcome your questions about dog bite law in NY. You can post a comment below or e-mail me directly at [email protected].

NY’s Dog Laws

New York State Agriculture and Markets Law Section 121 imposes penalties and controls on the owners of dogs who have attacked or threatened to attack.

Penalties for Owners

By statute, the penalties on the owner of a pet who has attacked can range from a fine to the possibility of one year in jail.

The penalty depends on what happened during an attack and whether the pet had ever been declared “dangerous” before. For example, if a dog attacked a person or caused physical injury or serious physical injury to a guide dog, the owner may be fined. However, if the attacking dog was declared dangerous in the past and attacked again, the owner may be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail.

Penalties/Controls on the Pet: A Dangerous Dog

If a dog attacks or threatens to attack people or other pets, there can be a hearing in court on whether the dog is a “dangerous dog.” Finding a dog “dangerous” allows the court to force the owners to take action to attempt to make sure the dog interacts safely with others.

The court can request a variety of actions for the pet including:

  • Requesting that the dog to be leashed or muzzled at all times in a public area,
  • requesting the owners to confine the pet (by fencing it, etc.) for a specific amount of time,
  • having the dog trained,
  • maintaining an insurance policy on the dog in case of future attack, and,
  • in very serious cases, euthanasia (putting the dog down) or permanent confinement.

Euthanasia or permanent confinement can not be mandated unless the dog caused serious physical injury or death while attacking a person, had attacked a person in the past, OR caused serious physical injury to another animal after being declared dangerous for the same behavior in the past.

What Can I Do if I Believe that a Dog is Dangerous?

First, if you have been attacked or witnessed a dog attack or threatened attack on a person or another animal, you should to make a complaint to an animal control officer as soon as possible.

(If you live in our area of Upstate New York, the link to the Horseheads and Elmira Animal Control Officers are below. If you are out of these areas, contact the police or call the animal control officers in your area.)

After an animal control officer receives a report of a witnessed or threatened attack, he or she will likely start a Dangerous Dog Proceeding with the court system. If the court feels that it is possible that the dog is a danger then the dog will be seized for the safety of the public until a hearing on the matter. Usually a hearing occurs within five days.

To find a dog a “dangerous dog” in a hearing, the animal control officer or person who brought the proceeding must prove that the dog is dangerous by showing that it is “more likely than not that the dog attacked or threatened to attack.” This is called the “burden of proof” and the burden is on the party bringing the dangerous dog complaint to prove that the dog did attack or threatened to attack. To satisfy this burden of proof you must bring witnesses that have first-hand knowledge (eyewitnesses) of the attack, or other proof of the attack (for example, pictures or videos).

The court will consider all the facts of the incident including if the dog was justified in its behavior. To make sure the dog’s dangerous tendencies can be proven, you may have to testify about what you observed.

If the court finds a dog to be dangerous, they will decide between the various penalties discussed above ranging from training to muzzling in public. Generally, euthanasia is not a penalty on the first complaint unless the situation is very serious, as discussed above.

What Do “Dangerous Dogs” and Statutory Penalties Have to Do with Dog Attack Liability?

I recently wrote about an important related topic – DOG ATTACK LIABILITY – in the post “When Dogs Attack: “Vicious Propensities” and Owner Liability Under New York State Law here on the NY Injury Law Blog. Under New York state law, the penalties against the owners and the finding of a dangerous dog are separate from the liability I discussed in the post. This means that – if you were attacked by a dog, your case may proceed in both ways.

Why? Because the owner’s liability and the dog’s “dangerous” designation deal with different things. For example, dog attack liability does not have any control over the actions the owner may have to take with the pet and cannot require fines; the dangerous dog sections usually do not compensate a dog attack victim for anything besides his or her expenses as a result of the attack.

However, although is generally separate, sometimes a “Dangerous Dog” finding can be useful in a civil trial by helping to prove vicious propensities.

Last Thoughts and Sources of Help

Please call your local animal control or police if you have been attacked or witnessed an attack by a dog. Also, if you are concerned about a dog’s aggressive behavior, even if they have not attacked or threatened to attack, PLEASE give the authorities a call. It may save you or someone else from a terrifying, painful or even deadly experience.

Who to Call: Upstate NY Animal Control Officers

The area code for the following phone numbers is 607 unless noted.

CHEMUNG COUNTY

The Chemung County Humane Society & SPCA has animal control contracts with nine of the municipalities in the county. Their website is www.chemungspca.org.

Caton, N.Y. Dog Control Officer – David Scouten, (607) 524-8411

Elmira, N.Y. Dog Control: www.cityofelmira.net/shelter/animal_control.html

Elmira City Animal Control Officer, 737-5807

Horseheads, N.Y. Dog Control: www.horseheads.org/index.php?n=Govt.Town#toc2

STEUBEN COUNTY

Addison: Robert Revis, 359-2034

Avoca/Howard: Betty Walden, 776-2453

Bath: Carl and Ruth Tuttle, 583-2229

Bradford: Edward Machuga, 583-2430

Cameron: Darrell Hoad, 776-7070

Campbell: Harold Austin, 527-8183

Canisteo: Gary Hadsell, 698-4350

Caton: David Scouten Sr., 524-8411

Cohocton/Wayland: Deb Breese, (716) 384-5499

Corning City: Linda Holmes, day 936-8422; night 527-8763

Corning Town: Jay Josephson, 524-6603

Dansville: Mary Lackey, 728-2999

Erwin: Jay Josephson, 524-6603

Freemont: John DuPont, 324-0002

Greenwood: John and Annette Jacobs, 478-5314

Hartsville: Michael D. Henry, 689-2677

Hornby: Gardiner Bills, 962-0882

Hornesville: Hornell Humane Society, 324-1270

Jasper/Woodhull: Richard Harrison, 458-5724

Lindley: Douglas Taft, 523-7779

Prattsburgh/Wheeler: Donald Gifford, 776-6058

Pulteney: John and Sherri Ballam, 522-5030

Rathbone: Jerry Aldrich, 359-2908

South Corning Village: Jay Josephson, 524-6603

Thurston: Gregory Crans, 776-2678

Troupsburg: John Space, 525-6354

Tuscarora: Paulena Webester, 350-3604

Wayne/Urbana: Marvin Rethmel, 569-3737

West Union: Alice Delill and Doris Williams, 225-4483

TOMPKINS COUNTY

Town of Ulysses: Chris Austin, Dog Control Officer, 387-9598

Towns of Lansing and Groton: Country Acres Pet Services, 749-2734, cell 423-2888

Town of Dryden: Richard and Gena Leonard, 844-3641, cell (for emergencies only) 351-2144

The City of Ithaca and the Towns of Danby, Caroline, Newfield, Enfield and Ithaca receive animal control services from the SPCA: 319-5067, emergency/off hours 592-6773

If there is not an animal control officer in your community, call your local police department or, in case of emergency, 911 to make sure they are informed of a dangerous animal!

We hope you found this information helpful. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack or dog bite please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or call 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529) to discuss your legal options.

Thanks,

Jim
_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Dog Bite Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Phone: (607) 733-8866 Fax: (607) 732-6062
Toll-free: (800)-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] www.zifflaw.com


DOG OWNER LIABILITY UNDER NEW YORK LAW FOR DOG ATTACKS

When Dogs Attack