In 2019, dogs killed more people than 2018. Almost every year, dogs kill more people than the year before. The leader in these statistics is the pit bull, year after year. The #1 canine killer of people is the pit bull, which also is the #1 canine killer of children, the #1 canine killer of women, and the #1 canine killer of other people's pets and horses. Sixteen kids were killed by dogs last year, 10 of whom were killed by pit bulls. A dog attack on a child is a three-headed monster: the child victim suffers, the public's guilt for not banning pit bulls and other fighting breeds increases, and the insurance industry usually acts ugly. Can we do better than this? You bet we can!
The Physical and Emotional Injuries that Kids Suffer
A dog attack on a child doesn't just bring pain and suffering to a boy or girl, but reveals how callous the American public and the insurance industry have become about our welfare and our rights. Let's start with the effect of a dog attack on the kids who are victimized. Children seldom understand why an attack happened and frequently will blame themselves for it. Lacking insight and the psychological tools to deal with trauma, kids experience a wide range of emotional and behavioral negatives. They become angry, afraid, withdrawn, insecure, and hypervigilant. They get questioned, stared at and made fun of, they have trouble getting along with other kids, and they suffer from sleeplessness, headaches and stomach aches. Adults (including their teachers) end up regarding these emotionally damaged children as problems and so the kids don’t get invited to parties and other group activities, which causes depression and low self-esteem.
The Public's Guilt
Despite the overwhelming evidence that pit bulls and other high risk breeds are mutilating and killing more Americans every year than the year before, the public continues to just shrug its shoulders after every new incident instead of demanding that these brutal animals be eliminated. Without a doubt, pit bulls and other breeds of fighting dogs should not be allowed to live among us. They have no legitimate purpose; to those people who are aware of the dangers posed by these dogs, the goal of ownership is to intimidate neighbors, ward away the police from ciminal activities, or falsely inflate one's self-image; to those who are unaware of the dangers, these dogs pose an intolerable degree of risk because, when it comes to pit bulls (the most awful of them), their usual victims are their owners and the children and parents of their owners. Yet the public fails to demand that lawmakers ban these animals, even after hearing about innocent children being mauled and killed on our streets.
The Insurance Industry's Callousness
The insurance industry takes full advantage of the public's apathy when it comes to dog attacks. Some insurers refuse to cover accidents caused by dogs, so taxpayers and our beleagured health care system are stuck with paying hundreds of millions of dollars per year in medical costs. The responsibility for canine-inflicted injuries should be placed firmly on the shoulders of the owners of the attacking dogs, as well as their insurance companies, not borne by society. Pit bull owners should be required to have insurance, and the insurance industry should not be allowed to exclude coverage for pit bulls or any other breed of dog. It isn't fair to the rest of us.
Where children are the victims, the insurance industry sinks to astonishing lows. Keep in mind that doing justice for an injured child means achieving far more than simply paying medical bills. The kid who has been brutalized by a pitbull or other high-risk dog will have problems for life, so just paying medical bills is not justice. We always need to do something for these kids that will come as close as possible to making it up to them later on, like setting aside enough money to give them a college education or something of that sort. But this is especially hard to do when the victim is a child because children cannot fight for themselves. While they have lawyers to represent them, there is a chance that the child will be subjected to a legal process designed to handle battles between adults and corporations, exposure to which doesn’t make a kid's life any better. As a result, parents are reluctant to push as hard as they would if they themselves were the dog attack victims. Insurance companies know this and do everything possible to take advantage of the situation, offering low amounts of money and a lot of resistance to paying anything for the benefit of a child victim even when liability is clear, medical bills are high, and the damage is substantial.
Here's an example. I just finished handling the case of Mathew Guess, a four-year-old boy who was brutally attacked by two pit bulls and suffered injuries so severe that the attack made international news. Google “Matthew Guess pit bulls“ and look at the photos. Despite how crystal clear the case was (the dog owner actually had one of the dogs put down immediately because he knew that his dog was at fault), the insurance company offered to pay only a fraction of the medical costs and nothing else to the child. Without giving details, I’m happy to say that at the end, we did something great for Matthew that will make a substantial, positive difference in his life. But I was forced to litigate the case, which dragged Matthew into it.
Ban Pit Bulls and Other Fighting Dogs!
I do nothing but dog attack cases all over the country and approximately 75% of my clients are little children, so I can tell you for sure that these accidents force all of us to confront a three-headed monster. The child suffers physical and emotional harm which can last a lifetime, the stain on the American public for callously failing to eliminate pit bulls and other high-risk dogs grows more gigantic, and the insurance industry gets more and more odious when they treat the kids unfairly. Let's ban pit bulls and other fighting breeds and take a bite out of this monsterous, surging, disgraceful dog bite epidemic. -- Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips (January 2020)