I got an email message from a young lady whose face was severely bitten by a girlfriend’s Rottweiler last week. She told me that “a chunk the size of a quarter” was taken out of her cheek, and that her bottom lip was “severed in half and hanging off.” What did she do? Nothing. She did not even go to the doctor.
Why not? She did not want to bother her girlfriend. She did not want the authorities to know what the dog did, out of fear that the dog would be taken away. So she did not get medical help or make a report to animal control.
A week later, she is starting to doubt the correctness of her decisions. She wrote to me and asked whether she could get her medical bills paid. Here is what I told her:
I want to start off by telling you that I am very sorry for you. My career is all about dog bite victims. That means, however, not only you but also the kids in the neighborhood where your girlfriend lives.
The first thing you should know is that this dog will seriously injure a young child very soon. Rottweilers and pit bulls do most of the serious killing in the USA, with regard to humans. A dog that does this to you will send the same wrong signals to a child and then will seriously alter the kid’s life.
Upon reflecting on this, consider your options. You can be a good person to your girlfriend and not report this to the animal control authorities, and leave the kids in the neighborhood open to danger. If something happens and your girlfriend goes to jail, however, you might end up not feeling too good. Yes, dog owners can go to jail when they keep a dog that is known to attack without justification. And by the way, the kid’s life changes for worse too.
In the past year, many of the human fatalities by dogs have been the dogs’ own owners. So not only are the kids in danger, but also your girlfriend.
On the other hand, you can tell your girlfriend to have the dog put down, and make sure it happens, thereby making both of you take a stand to show just how conscientious you are, how responsible you both are, how stand-up you both are. How interested in fairness and justice for everyone, not just yourselves.
Or you can go the other route. Find out if she has insurance, and make a claim for medical payments and liability payments against her insurance policy. Just take care of yourself and your medical bills, and forget everyone else. Let the kids in the neighborhood take their chances. Maybe they will be okay. But put the risk on them. Let the chips fall where they may, as long as you get your bills paid.
Those are your options. Now make your choice. Yes, my words are harsh. But not unnecessarily so. Do you remember Diane Whipple, the young teacher who was brutally killed by dogs in San Francisco 10 years ago? The dog that killed her had nipped and lunged at about 25 people in the neighborhood, but none of them had ever told the authorities. Only two people had actually been bitten by that dog before it killed Diane … and she was one of them. Even she failed to report it. And then it killed her. There are other dog owners who have been killed by their own dogs in the last year. So my words are harsh, but need to be heard.
Kenneth M. Phillips