On August 2, police reported the latest in a series of attacks by Pit Bulls in San Diego apartment complexes. About 10:20 a.m. a 7-year-old boy reportedly let two Pit Bull-mix dogs out of a unit in a four-plex on Glenhaven Street in Serra Mesa. The dogs were released into a fenced common area to go to the bathroom, San Diego Police officer Scott Brengi told utsandiego.com
Unfortunately, at that same time, a 30-year-old woman from another unit was carrying a bag of trash into the same area. The woman is five months pregnant.
“One of the 3-year-old dogs ran at her and knocked her flat on her stomach, and bit her right hand. She was screaming, her husband came out and got her inside, and the owner got control of the dogs,” Officer Brengi said.
The woman sustained only one bite wound, which was considered minor. She was immediately transported to a hospital out of concern for the unborn baby, according to utsandiego.com.
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Maryland Legislature to Consider Pit Bull Liability for Landlords in Special Session
Also on August 1, across the country, ABCNews in Baltimore reports that the Maryland Legislature is planning to discuss the issue of pit bulls in rental property in a special session, to clarify issues of landlord liability contained in an April Maryland Appeals Court decision which holds both landlords and owners of Pit Bulls liable for attacks
Pit Bull Committee member Delegate Kurt Anderson explained that liability is the big issue.
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"It's very general legislation I think the more specific stuff probably will go in the regular session. Right now it's kind of unsettled for landlords, tenants, people who live in apartment buildings. We want to at least settle that part of it and deal with the dangerous dog issues later.”
The Maryland Court of Appeals’ opinion in April 2012 declared that Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous animals and distinguishes Pit Bulls and Pit Bull-mixed breeds from other kinds of dogs. Previously, victims of attacks filing lawsuits had to show that dog owners (and landlords) knew the Pit Bull(s) had a history of violent behavior.
"It is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous," the court ruled. Under the new ruling by the Appeals Court, merely showing that the owner of the dog or the landlord of the property knew the dog is at least part Pit Bull is sufficient to file a claim, according to an April 27, 2012, report by the Baltimore Sun..
Denver Assistant City Attorney Kory Nelson explained the Maryland decision: “For the first time, a state's highest court has ruled that a landlord can be held civilly liable for damages caused by their tenant's pit bull, regardless of whether the pit bull had a known prior history of attacks or aggressive behaviors. With this landmark decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals, attorneys can now legitimately pursue similar lawsuits against landlords in other states urging their states to adopt the reasoning in the Maryland decision.” http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2012/53a11.pd f
Kentucky Supreme Court Rules that Landlords May be Liable if Tenant’s Dog Bites
In June 2012, the Kentucky Supreme Court also found that a landlord might be liable for damages if a tenant’s dog attacks. “Dog bite victims injured on leased premises are no longer out of luck if the dog owner fails to carry renter’s insurance covering dog bite attacks,” according to Kevin Renfro, attorney and managing partner for Becker Law Office.
In the recently decided case of Benningfield v. Zinsmeister, the Kentucky Supreme Court found that a landlord might be liable for damages if a tenant’s dog attacks. The question before the Court was whether a landlord who permits a tenant to keep a dog on leased premises can be deemed an “owner” of the tenant’s dog and, therefore, liable for damages if that dog causes injury to a third party.
Kentucky dog bite law (KRS Chapter 258) imposes strict liability on dog owners when their dogs attack a person, livestock, or personal property. (See: KRS 258.235(4)) That means there is no “one bite” rule allowing the animal to attack one time before its owner is then liable for damages.
KRS 258.990 provides that “the owner of any dog…which bites a human being shall be liable to pay all damages for personal injuries resulting from the bite…” The all-important question then centers around who is deemed an “owner” for liability purposes.
KRS 258.095(5) defines “owner” as “every person having a right of property in the dog and every person who keeps or harbors the dog, or has it in his care, or permits it to remain on or about premises owned or occupied by him.”
It is this last phrase of the definition of “owner”, says Renfro, upon which the Kentucky Supreme Court found a landlord might be held responsible for damages caused by a tenant’s dog.
“On or about the premises” determines the extent of the landlord’s liability based on the geographical location of the attack. The Benningfield Court explained that landlords might be liable for attacks that occur immediately adjacent to the property or “so close to it as to be within immediate physical reach.” Landlords are not liable for injuries occurring outside the leased premises.
Based on the Court’s reasoning, Renfro explains, a landlord may be deemed an “owner” if the landlord knows about the dog on the leased premises and permits the dog to be there. After being deemed an “owner”, a landlord might be liable for damages if the dog attacks within immediate physical reach of the leased premises.
The practical effect of this ruling is that dog bite victims may still be compensated if attacked by a tenant’s dog on leased property where the tenant has no insurance. The Benningfield Court explained, “including responsible landlords under the umbrella of dog owners…increases the likelihood that an innocent dog-attack victim can be made whole,” writes the Becker Law Blog.
California: Landlord Pays if Tenant's Dog Attacks in San Luis Obispo County
On April 10, 2012, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in northern California approved a new “aggressive and menacing” dog-behavior law which includes the requirement for preventive measures to control animals considered potentially a danger, before they attack other animals or humans.
Landlords are also held responsible for tenants' failure to curb menacing or aggressive behavior of pets or to properly confine them, under the new law. The ordinance requires owners, or those who have custody of an animal which is considered menacing or aggressive, to “immediately confine it to a secure enclosure or location” as soon as they are told the animal has violated the ordinance.http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/should-landlord-pay-if-tenants-dog-attacks-someone
Those who Oppose Breed-Specific Liability Laws
Pit bull owners and certain animal-rights activists warn that dogs which appear to be Pit Bulls, may be surrendered to shelters or euthanized under “false pretenses.”
But, the Maryland SPCA says they didn't get the flood of people turning in their dogs that they expected. ”Since the ruling we actually had adoptions fall through. As a result of the ruling…landlords have heard about an adoption and asked the adopters to return the pet. That means that by singling out this breed of dog, shelters are full,” Director Aileen Gabbey says.
(Author’s Note: Animal shelters all over the country where there has not been such a ruling are also full of pit bulls.)
In May 2012, Pit Bull owner and advocate Lindsay Harris told Baltimore Pit Bull Examiner that referring to pit bulls as a specific breed would be a misnomer. “There’s no such thing as a pit bull breed. If you visit shelters and rescues, the descriptions will all say ‘pit bull mix,’ because under that category you have American Pit Bull terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Mastiff,” said Harris. “You have all those bred in.”
California: Sacramento Dog Bite Attorneys Warn of Breeds that Frequently Attack
Sacramento dog bite attorney John N. Demas at the Demas Law Group warns of breeds that most frequently attack and cause injuries, based upon national statistics and their own experience.
The Group provides some shocking statistics. Approximately 16,000 people in the United States seek emergency care each day due to dog bites. In 2006, a total of 22 people were killed by dogs. By 2009, that figure had increased 50 percent. Recently the numbers are more alarming. It is now estimated that in America an individual is bitten by a dog every 75 seconds.
Sacramento dog bite lawyers have noted that ten breeds are statistically most likely to injure or kill. They list Pit bulls as the “most dangerous.”
-- Pit bulls
-- German Shepherds
-- Alaskan Malamutes
-- Doberman Pinschers
-- Presa Canario