Young girl killed in dog attack – USA Fatality #1 for 2009

On January 6, 2008, a five year old girl in Thomasville, Georgia, was mauled to death by her parent’s pit bulls while she was playing in her own back yard. Chyenne Peppers was playing in the yard of her home when the family’s three pit bulls attacked her. Her parents were home at the time, but were inside their house. (The short article is here.

The child was unreasonably exposed to danger, as indicated on my Dog Attack Danger Scale. Three dangerous factors were present: 

* More than one dog in their own yard, and no master present. In 2008, 78% of the human fatalities were by dogs in their own yard.

* Pit bull, Rottweiler, Akita or Chow. Most fatal dog attacks are by pit bulls. In 2008, 65% of the fatalities were by pit bulls.

* The pack mentality. Three dogs are worse than 2, 4 are worse than 3, etc. Docile dogs often become uncharacteristically violent and vicious when they are in a pack. In 2008, 39% of the fatalities involved multiple dogs.

Because the above factors are commonly known, the conduct of the parents of this child was negligent at best. This warrants prosecution for negligent homicide and child endangerment.

Furthermore, everyone in the State of Georgia shares some degree of responsibility for this death, because the state is following the 17th century dog law of England, namely the so-called one-bite rule. Georgia’s dog bite statute incorporates the one-bite rule. The statute is convoluted, requiring two grounds for liability in most cases. I have litigated more than one case in Georgia and fought against not only the statute itself but also the 19th century judicial opinions that further limit Georgia’s protection of its children from dogs.

Georgia needs to adopt a dog bite statute that is AMERICAN and is in line with modern views of personal responsibility. The one bite rule needs to be stricken from Georgia’s law, and the judicial opinions that say that NO dog owner can be held liable for negligence need to be overturned. To accomplish these goals, Georgia needs to adopt my Model Dog Bite Statute.