On Wednesday, February 8, 2012, a Denver anchorwoman, Kyle Dyer, was bitten in the face by an Argentine Mastiff on live television. The 85-lb dog had been rescued by Firefighter Tyler Sugaski after having fallen through the ice on a frozen lake the day before. Many news outlets have stopped showing the video, but it is widely available online. If you choose to view the video, be aware that the content may be upsetting. The Sacramento Bee article relating to the story can be read here.
The story touches on elements of responsibility and safety with regard to dog ownership as well as conduct in the presence of an unfamiliar animal. The Mastiff, owned by Michael Robinson of Denver, was off his leash during a walk on Tuesday when he spotted a coyote in the brush and took off after the wild animal. The dog chased the coyote onto a frozen-over lake. The ice gave way and the dog was plunged into the frigid water. Municipal resources were spent as a successful rescue by Denver’s West Metro Fire Department ensued. The dog was impounded and owner Robinson was cited for not keeping control of his pet.
In the City of Sacramento, such owner conduct would similarly be grounds for citation, as according to Sacramento City Code 9.44.220, no domestic animal (with the exception of a cat) is permitted to be at large, defined as follows:
1. Off the premises of its owner, and not under restraint by leash, tether or adequate enclosure.
2. On the premises of its owner and not restrained by leash, tether, fence or adequate enclosure, or not under the control and in the immediate presence of the owner.
3. The leash or tether required under subsections 1 and 2 of this definition shall not exceed eight feet in length and shall be of sufficient strength to restrain the animal should it try to run from the owner or keeper.
At the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith, we handle the unfortunate aftermath of dog owners neglecting their legal and ethical responsibility to control their dogs. The law is very clear that the owner of a dog is liable for any injuries caused by the dog. California Civil Code Section 3342 says:
3342. (a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
So what if you find yourself in a situation where a dog owner has failed in his responsibility to keep you safe from his or her dog? There are safety tips you can keep in mind….
We think Kyle Dyer would agree that she made a terrible mistake by leaning down and looking into the face of the 85 pound Mastiff known as Gladiator Maximus (“Max” for short). Some reports indicate it appeared she was going in to kiss the giant beast. Max likely interpreted her act as one of aggression. Fortunately, it is reported that reconstructive surgery to Ms. Dyer’s face went well and a full recovery is expected.
Max was in an unfamiliar place, with people he did not know. Additionally, he had undergone a traumatic experience the day before. But even without all those risk factors, going face to face with any dog with which you are unfamiliar is highly unwise.
Other things to remember when approached by an unfamiliar dog:
* Do not turn and run – the dog’s instinct to chase will kick in. He will catch you.
* Resist the impulse to scream. Try a firm “No!”
* If the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight
* If the dog attacks, “feed” him any object available to you (jacket, ball, purse).
* If you are knocked to the ground, curl in a ball with your hands over your ears.
Teach your children the above guidelines and instill in them a healthy respect for unfamiliar animals. Unfortunately, children are more likely to be bitten by a dog than adults and they often suffer bites to the face. Review the ASPCA Safety Tips to help facilitate and inform this important conversation with your kids.
Even with education, preparedness and caution, dog bites will occur.
If you or someone you love has experienced a dog attack, know that there are often legal remedies available and that the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith can help.