dog open mouth

Kenneth M. Phillips, the author of Dog Bite Law, received this email message recently:

I have a neighbor who lives at the end of my street. She has several dogs. Every time I walk by her house, or skateboard by, or go by with my dog, they go ballistic, barking viciously and running the length of the fence which borders the road. This often is daily or more, as I do not currently have a running vehicle and I have to pass her house to go anywhere.

Her dogs have tried to attack me and my dog twice in her presence, like yesterday when I was skateboarding by. She did not have her dogs on a leash or behind her security compound gate, and two came out into the street in full-on attack mode. One in particular tried to bite at my dog twice and fortunately got a mouth full of fur both times. As I frantically tried to back my dog away and defend myself, I was able to grab the dog by the back of the neck as it continued to lunge at my dog.

The owner, hysterically waving her arms, reached for the dog as I held it up, and I let go. She did not have the dog and it lunged forward before I could grab it again and I got bit on the thigh. It is a fairly superficial wound but there are puncture wounds and it hurts all the same.

The laws are frequently weak, city budgets for animal control too low, and enforcement policies too soft to get dangerous dogs off our streets. However, you do not have to accept the current status quo. Here are some powerful, effective things that you can do:

  • Demand that your representatives in city government pass the right laws and put teeth in them. That includes tougher laws and strict enforcement policies. Every city needs to have a leash law (i.e., dogs have to be on a leash at all times unless they are securely fenced upon the owner's property) and a dangerous dog law that (a) gives the animal control department the authority to euthanize dangerous dogs and (b) applies to dogs that bite people or other animals or requires a person to take defensive action.
  • Use the small claims court to make the wrongdoer pay for damage caused to other dogs. I have written a book entitled When a Dog Is Injured Or Killed. It's a self-help book for dog owners whose companions have been wrongfully harmed, whether by dangerous dogs, negligent animal control officers, vicious neighbors, the malpractice of a veterinarian, or any other way.¬†Without having to retain an attorney, you will be able to secure justice for their pets and themselves. The book contains legal advice, the strategies that I use in my own cases, and prewritten letters and forms for getting compensated in or out of court. The book is inexpensive and easy to use. Click here to find out how to buy it.
  • Be the squeaky wheel -- complain to the bad dog owner's landlord, the police, the homeowner's association, neighborhood watch, animal control, the city council and everyone else. He might be forced to change his behavior or a landlord or another of those organizations might succeed in pressuring him to do so.
  • Retain an attorney to analyze your local animal control laws, and write a strong letter to the authorities that will remind them of their duties. The letter also can be used to communicate to the mayor, the police, the city council, and the county board, not to mention the press.
  • Write a letter to the dog owner that informs him of his legal liabilities.

First, refer him to the "dangerous dog laws" of your city and county. You will have to find them online. In Google, enter the name of your city and the words "municipal code." Do the same with the name of your county, and the words "county ordinances." The dog laws are usually in a chapter called "Animals" or something similar. Search for the word "vicious" and look in that section as well as the surrounding sections. Tell him that these laws prohibit what he is doing, and that his dog is going to suffer if it is confiscated by the authorities.

Second, refer him to the page that talks about his liability on Dog Bite Law. At the top of any page of the site, type the name of your state. Then go to the page on the site that explains the law. Give him that URL. Tell him that he also will have to pay for any damages if his dog bites someone.