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Articles Posted in Animal and Dog Bites

National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs from April 9 to 15, aims to educate the public and dog owners about how to prevent dog bites. According to recent reports, dog bite claims over the past 10 years have skyrocketed. The information below provides insight into why these claims have been on the rise, and provides helpful tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

The Insurance Information Institute, in collaboration with State Farm, released a report earlier this month to call attention to the shocking increase in dog bite claims. According to the report, 18,000 dog bite claims were filed in 2016 alone. This is nearly 3,500 more than were filed in 2006. So, what’s going on? Are there more “vicious” dogs today than there were 10 years ago? Are irresponsible owners to blame?

The real answer may have more to do with the potential payout than with the dogs or owners; the average payout on a dog bite claim has risen by more than $11 thousand in that same period of time. Total payouts for all dog bite claims in 2016 increased by nearly $280 million. This doesn’t mean that people are taking advantage of the system, however. In the past, dog bite claims weren’t taken as seriously as they are today, thus, they usually resulted in a lower payout. As filing a legal claim can be a complex process, it is likely that less people chose to go this route when the potential payout was less substantial.

Dog Bite Facts

But an increase in attacks, and more serious bites, may also play a role in the rise in dog bite claims. According to analysts, there has been an uptick in severe dog bites, especially those involving children. This combination of an increase in attacks and an increase in payouts may be responsible for the nearly 20 percent increase in annual dog bite claims. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been the victim of a dog bite or attack.

  • According to the CDC, about 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States
  • Of these bites, about 900,000 become infected.
  • In 2016, 41 people died due to dog bites
  • Of those deaths, 31 percent were three to six-day-old infants

Who is Liable?

In most cases, the dog’s owner is liable for any injury caused by their dog. Of course, in some instances it is the victim, not the dog or owner, who is to blame. If an individual is thought to have “provoked” a dog, the owner may not be liable for resulting injuries. An ignored “Beware of Dog” sign could further complicate the issue. A skilled MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a dog attack.

How to Prevent Dog Bites

Before we talk about how to prevent dog bites, let’s consider why dogs bite in the first place. In most cases, dogs bite because they are stressed, because they feel threatened, or to protect themselves or their puppies. They may also react aggressively if they are not feeling well.

  • Avoid approaching an animal that you do not know.
  • Avoid running from a dog.
  • If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, stay completely still and avoid direct eye contact.
  • Avoid disturbing a sleeping dog.
  • Avoid disturbing a dog who is eating.
  • Before attempting to pet an unfamiliar dog, allow the dog to sniff you.
  • If a dog begins to attack, roll into a ball and stay very still. Cover your ears and neck, and avoid eye contact.

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The U.S. Postal Service has stopped delivering mail to one New England town, citing an aggressive dog as the reason.

For more than one year, mail carriers have not delivered mail to a neighborhood in Concord, New Hampshire over concern that one of the neighborhood homeowner’s dogs is overly aggressive and poses a significant threat to postal workers. In three separate instances postal workers have been rushed and had to suspend delivery anywhere near the home out of concern that the dog will attack.

Neighbors have also complained that the dog is exceptionally aggressive and that they fear for their own safety, however there have not been reports that the dog has actually attacked and harmed any individuals.

While no one yet has been injured by this dog, the scary truth is that no one knows just what will set off a dog and cause it to attack. In many cases, dog attacks happen to unsuspecting individuals who have done nothing to provoke an attack. Under Massachusetts law, dog attacks are held strictly under liability law-meaning that the dog’s owner is fully responsible for the actions of his or her dog. If a dog attacks someone and causes injury, no matter how severe, then it is the owner (or the owner’s insurance carrier) who is responsible for payment of all medical bills, lost wages, and financial compensation for pain and suffering, and any other costs associated with the injury to the victim and/or his family.
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Dog bites can result in devastating scars, nerve damage, disfigurement and even death. In many cases, dog attacks can also leave victims with severe psychological injuries too. Since Massachusetts is a strict liability state, owners can be held liable for their dog’s actions even if there isn’t any negligence or prior history of aggression. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, contact an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Additionally, half of all dog bite victims are children. In 2012, more than 27,000 victims underwent reconstructive surgery for dog bites. Nearly one in five people who are bitten require medical treatment for injuries.
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The town of Bridgewater, MA is facing a serious issue following the resignation of the town’s animal control officer and three serious dog attacks since mid-February.

Police say they are without backup when it comes to animal-related emergency calls since Eric Badger, Bridgewater’s Health Agent and part-time animal control officer, resigned from his positions back in February of this year.

“Right now, there’s nowhere to turn,” Police Lieutenant Tom Schlatz said. Without an Animal Control officer in town, “there’s a certain follow-up that’s not being done.”

According to the town’s officials, Bridgewater police has responded to three separate dog attacks over the last six weeks.

On April 9, a woman was attacked while walking her own dog when a 4-year old boxer, lunged at the woman’s dog. The boxer bit the woman in the leg, leaving puncture wounds on her calf. One week after that incident, on April 16, an 11-year old was bitten by a dog at a residence and taken to the hospital for injuries on her arms and wrists. On May 12, a Shaw Road resident called police after his 6-year old daughter was bitten by an American bull dog while playing with her friends.

In all three cases, police stated that they left messages with Badger, who later said he would not respond to the messages because he had already resigned from his post as animal control officer. Badger said that the animal control officer would step in in these incidents only if the dogs had not been vaccinated. All three of the dogs in these cases had been vaccinated, and will remain in their homes.

Badger, who received only a $100 stipend each week for responding to animal-related calls on an on-call basis, said he didn’t have a real budget to work with. He stated that he did not even have a crate to keep animals quarantined and in one instance, had to call upon the help of a neighboring town’s animal control unit for assistance.
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A 14-year-old boy is in critical condition today after being attacked by two Rottweilers Thursday night.

Officers responded last Thursday, March 21, to a fenced-in backyard on Squire Road, in Revere, after the boy’s friend, 12, placed the frantic call to police. The boys had apparently scaled the fence and jumped in the yard to play with the dogs.

Police could not immediately respond to the boy when they arrived because the chain-link fence surrounding the yard was padlocked and topped with barbed wire.

Officer Mike Mullen, who is credited with saving the boy’s life, had to scale the fence while firefighters worked on cutting the gate’s padlock. He shot one of the dogs in the leg, forcing it to retreat from the boy, as firefighters sprayed the other dog with water. Mullen then picked up the bleeding boy, and ran to the boy to firefighters, who then rushed him to an ambulance.

Detective Sergeant Steven Pisano said that if Mullen had not acted so quickly, the boy would have probably died because his injuries were so severe.

According to neighbors, the boy was not a stranger to the dogs, and frequently spent time at that location. Pisano said the property’s owner kept guard dogs in the yard for two decades but had never had any complaints about them.
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A 3-year-old, 48-pound pointer-hound mix will now be euthanized after he was involved in a second Mansfield, MA dog attack involving a child. Milo first came to the attention of authorities when he bit a 6-year-old boy in January. The child, who was being babysat by the dog’s owner, required over 400 stitches.

Now, Milo has again bitten another child, this time sending a 16-year-old girl to the hospital. His owners have since surrendered him to Mansfield Animal Control.

Dog Bites

Three pit bull terriers have been placed under quarantine after a Pittsfield, Massachusetts dog attack that sent a 9-year-old boy to the hospital. Perrin and his mother Jessyca Petell were entering their multi-family residence on Monday night when the dogs ran at him in a common area. The pit bulls belong to another resident.

Perrin sustained 35 nail and teeth puncture wounds to his face, head, and arms, and a portion of his scalp (about 3-inches by 3-inches in size) was torn off. Per state law, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn declared the dogs vicious and said they must be “disposed of.” The pit bulls’ owner has 10 days to appeal.

Massachusetts Dog Attacks

Kourtney Lebon and Kimberley Frye are seeking Massachusetts injury damages from the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office. The two women claim that the sheriff’s K-9 attacked them without provocation and they are claiming excessive use of police force. They also contend that Deputy Sheriff (Patrick) Martin and the two Falmouth cops who were with him did not act immediately to stop the dog attack.

The Massachusetts dog attack occurred on June 9, 2008 after Frye and Lebon and ran into the woods following a multiple stabbing incident occurred at a graduation party they had just attended. It was while they were in the woods that Frye says that the sheriff’s dog attacked her, biting her buttocks. Lebon, who had run away and climbed a tree to avoid getting bitten, claims she too was attacked by the police dog after the officers had persuaded her to come down. She was injured on her left leg.

Lebon and Frye were then handcuffed and held until an ambulance arrived. They were never charged in the stabbing.

Frye and Lebon, who are seeking at least $300,000 in Falmouth personal injury damages, say that their Massachusetts dog bite injuries has resulted in emotional damage and permanent scarring.

Excessive Use of Police Force
Excessive use of police force can be grounds for a Boston injury lawsuit. Police are never supposed to use more force than necessary when detaining or questioning anyone. This includes making sure that a K-9 doesn’t cause unnecessary injury to anyone. Dog bites can be painful, scarring and traumatic. It the responsibility of a dog’s owner/handler keep an animal in check so that it doesn’t hurt people. K-9 handlers are not exempt from this responsibility.

Suit alleges excessive force by sheriff’s K-9, Cape Cod Times, May 25, 2011

Related Web Resource:
Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office

Dog Bite Prevention, CDC

More Blog Posts:
Haverhill Dog Attack: Grandmother and Her Friend are Injured as Two German Shepherds Try to Charge 1-Year-Old in Stroller, Boston Injury Lawyer, May 4, 2011
Massachusetts Dog Attack Involving Two Bulldogs Injures 10-Year-Old Girl, Boston Injury Lawyer, June 10, 2011
Boston Personal Injury Lawsuit Accuses Police Motorcyclist of Assault and Battery in ’07 Marathon Pedestrian Accident, Boston Injury Lawyer, February 15, 2011 Continue reading

Two woman sustained leg and arm injuries in a Haverhill, Massachusetts dog attack involving two German Shepherds last month. Laurie Adams, a 49-year-old Haverhill woman, and her friend got hurt on April 15 as they protected Adams’ granddaughter Avery from the animals.

Adams says the animals bit them and then ran off before returning to attack them again. She called 911 for help, and fire, police, and animal control crews came to their rescue.

The owner of the German Shepherds was out of town at the time and a friend was taking care of the animals. They were running free in a yard when they saw Adams, her granddaughter, and friend and ran across the street toward them.

In Brookline, Selectmen are considering a plan that would allow Brookline residents to unleash their dogs in 14 local parks for $50 per year, per dog. Persons who do not live in Brookline would have to pay $100 a year.

The Park and Recreation Commission of Brookline is asking for the fee to fund a park ranger position and to pay for oversight of the Green Dog Program, Brookline’s off-leash initiative that allows dog owners to unleash their dogs during certain hours and in certain areas.

Some dog owners are opposing the fee, complaining that dog owners shouldn’t have to pay a fee to unleash their dogs in public parks because other people don’t have to pay fees to engage in unorganized activities in the parks. Others seem to be neutral or happy to pay the fee to help fund the ranger.

The fee has been considered since 2008, but officials have held off until now. The fees are expected to bring about $30,000 into the town. The Green Dog Program costs about $55,000 per year.

Fee or no fee, dog owners need to be careful about unleashing their dogs in public parks. If the dog injures another person or causes damage, then the owner will be strictly liable (unless the injured person was teasing or abusing the dog or trespassing) under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140 § 155. Even when an owner is confident that their dog has a good disposition and will not bite or harm another person, it’s important to remember that dogs are animals and can snap. About 800,000 people in the United States require medical attention for dog bites every year, most of them children. So, whether these Brookline residents will have to pay fees or not, they should keep this in mind when they enjoy off-leash time with their dogs.

Source: The Boston Globe, Brookline eyes $50 fee to let dogs off the leash
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