Small children should always be supervised when they are in the presence of a large dog. Assuming that the dog and the child will get along is never a good idea. It only takes a second for a dog to bite a child. Dogs bite their own puppies when they misbehave and most dogs will correct a child who misbehaves around them in the same fashion. A dog may consider that the child is not obeying proper manners and needs to be corrected if the child makes direct eye contact with dog. Puppies do not make direct eye contact with adult dogs other than their mother. If a puppy attempts to take food from an adult dog, it will usually correct the puppy and put him back into his place. There are many rules to dog behavior that animal behaviorists are educated about. Most small children are not educated to understand the social rules of canine society. An adult dog is likely to view a small child as they would a puppy and attempt to correct their mistakes as they would any youngster in their pack. Adults should never leave a small child unattended with any dog, especially one that they are not raised with. It is a recipe for disaster.
In the case at hand, on June 22, 2003, a man brought his son who was only three years of age to a family barbeque at his sister’s house. There were several other children present at the party and a large number of people present. His sister owned a full grown Rottweiler dog who the children had played with on occasion before. On this date, with all of the excitement present, the dog had become a nuisance at meal time. The sister had secured the dog in her bedroom. After several hours of confinement, the dog began to bark. The sister sent her child to let the dog out of her bedroom so that it would be quiet. None of the adults observed the interactions that the children had with the dog. At some point during the afternoon, the children went inside the house and began to feed the dog, dog- biscuits. The facts of the case change from child to child at this point.
The oldest child present stated that they were throwing the dog biscuits at the dog and that the baby went forward to retrieve a bone that he had given the dog. As the child reached for the dog bone to take it away from the dog, the dog growled and then bit him. The bite was administered as a sharp nipping type of bite with an immediate release which caused the baby to fall back against a corner of the wall. The child received injury to his throat and chin from the bite and the back of his head from hitting the wall. He was rushed to the emergency room.
The baby’s father filed a lawsuit to recover damages as a result of the attack that took place in his sister’s home. The sister and her husband filed a motion for summary judgment releasing them from liability based on the fact that they had no prior knowledge that the dog had the propensity to bite. The brother stated that he had discovered since the attack on his son, that the dog had attacked and bitten one of the gardeners at his sister’s house just one month before this incident. Apparently, the gardener and his associate were in the yard doing yard work when the dog charged at them growling and barking. The men fled the yard and the dog pursued them. One of the men was bitten on the leg by the dog as they attempted to get out of the gate. The brother maintains that this is proof that his sister should have known about this dog’s propensity to bite and safeguarded the children from the dog.
The sister maintained that she had owned the dog since he was a puppy. She stated that part of his training as a puppy was that they would take his food away from him. She stated that the dog had never had any problem with the food being taken away from him and that she was not familiar with any incident in which the dog had shown any propensity to bite. She stated that she was not aware of the dog bite incident with the gardener. The brother maintained that since the dog was a Rottweiler, his sister should have been aware of the breed’s reputation and should have known that the dog was likely to bite.
The court determined that there was a triable issue of fact in this case as to whether or not the sister should have known that the dog had the propensity to bite. They stated that the court prefers to not associate a vicious reputation to any particular breed of dog, it is important that the owner of any dog be aware of their dogs ability to bite. A large dog has a particularly dangerous bite force when it involves a small child. One bite from a Rottweiler over 100 pounds could easily kill a small child especially if the dog bites the child in the neck as was the case here. It is clear that if this dog had wanted to kill this child, the child would be dead. The size of the dog and the bite force of a Rottweiler would have made it impossible for the children to prevent a fatal attack if the dog had been so inclined. Children must be supervised around dogs for both the protection of the dog and the children. Children need to be educated early in life about attempting to take food away from a dog, especially one that they do not live with. Teasing a dog by pulling food away from them can also be a trigger for an otherwise nice dog to lash out. In this case, it is obvious that the lack of parental supervision of the children played a large role in the incident that followed. The fact that the children were interacting with the dog where food was involved is also dangerous and should have been prevented. The small child should have been instructed by his parents not to take food away from a dog or to approach at face level with any dog, especially one that he does not know well. Small children are at particular risk with large dogs because they approach the dog at eye level and face to face. This type of approach is an attack approach to a dog and the dog is likely to view the interaction as a hostile encounter. There is more than a little bit of blame to go around in this type of case. However, because there is a triable issue of fact as to whether the sister should have been aware of the dog’s propensity to bite, the court must deny the request for summary judgment that was requested by the sister.
At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, New York dog bite attorneys can take a look at your case on its own merit. We have convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. A New York criminal lawyer can evaluate your case to help you make a decision that is right for you and your family, about seeking monetary compensation.