Criminalize the Failure to Stop a Dog Attack

No state makes it a crime for a dog owner/keeper/caretaker to simply watch as his or her dog attacks a person or animal. Yet there are laws requiring a person to render aid under certain circumstances (for example, California drivers must render aid to any person whom they might injure in a motor vehicle collision). In dog attacks, frequently the owner is present and capable of controlling the dog, but takes no action to stop the attack. This can be an attack on another animal, such as a dog fight in a dog park, or an attack on a person. The results can be horrifying:

  • A dog owner brought his dog into a playground, gave permission for a 6-year-old boy to pet it, watched as the dog mauled the boy’s face, and then calmly walked away as the boy was bleeding and screaming.
  • A dog owner took her dog for a walk in her own neighborhood. Down the street, a man let his dog out, onto the sidewalk. The two dogs began to fight. The woman tried to stop the fight; the man did not. The woman was severely bitten or cut as she tried to pry the dogs loose.
  • In the Diane Whipple murder case, the attack happened in the hallway of an apartment building, the dogs’ owner/caretaker (Marjorie Knoller) was present during the attack, the attack lasted 10 minutes, but somehow Knoller did not stop it from resulting in Whipple’s horrible death.

It should be a crime for an owner or keeper to fail to take reasonable action to stop a dog attack after it begins. Reasonable action should include the obligation to use all necessary force to stop the dog from continuing to hurt a human being.

In 2008, the Texas Supreme Court held that a dog owner owes a duty to attempt to stop the dog from attacking a person after the attack has begun. This is a civil duty, meaning that the victim can sue if the dog owner fails to attempt to stop the attack. The court based its holding on Restatement 2nd of Torts, sec. 518, comment j (1977). For that reason, the opinion should be persuasive in courts throughout the USA. (Bushnell v. Mott (Tex. 03/28/2008) 2008.TX.0002515,