Dog Attacks: Should Landlords be Cited for Attacks by Tenant's Dog?


Two loose Pit Bulls viciously attacked Robin O’Hara, a Nipomo, California, resident and her Boxer, Cassius on March 22 while they were taking their morning walk, and she began a campaign for tougher local protection against dog attacks. As a result, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance on April 10 to put more bite into its animal control laws, including issuing citations to landlords for actions of tenants’ dogs.

Dr. Eric Anderson of Animal Services Unit for the county explained that under the proposed ordinance, an owner could be required to restrain a menacing dog before it attacks “so there’s a reasonable assurance it can’t escape.”

The owner would be cited if a dog attacks another animal and causes severe injury, with proposed fines at $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $500 for a third.

The ordinance also would hold landlords responsible for acts committed by tenants’ dogs.

This new ordinance would not affect the victim’s right to take a civil action against the offending dog’s owner for financial or other damages.

Robin O’Hara thinks the penalties are too weak. “There’s no teeth to the proposed ordinance,” O’Hara told The Adobe Press, as she recalls the horror of the attack. O’Hara said Cassius shook with fear for a week afterwards, and she was also affected mentally and emotionally.

That day, O’Hara and her 7-year-old, 90-pound boxer, Cassius, were on their usual morning walk through her peaceful Vista Robles neighborhood and the 14-acre green space that surrounds it. She suddenly noticed two loose pit bulls at the end of her block, staring at her and Cassius, and with no warning, the dogs attacked.

O’Hara stated that one of the Pit Bulls got its jaws around Cassius’ neck, while the other grabbed his left hind leg, and she began screaming and kicking the attackers.

A neighbor, Bob Horacek, heard her. “I looked out and saw her with the leash wrapped around her and a pile of dogs. All I could hear was screaming and barking.”  He grabbed a shovel and began beating the dog clamped onto Cassius’ throat.

Horacek hit the Pit Bull four or five times in the head to make it release Cassius. “Then [the dogs] ran out and made a circle, and they would have come back, but I chased them up the hill and hit them again,” he told The Adobe Press.

While Horacek chased the dogs and followed them to their home, his wife helped O’Hara and Cassius to safety.

“It was so unprovoked,” O’Hara stated to reporters. “(The dogs) saw us and went after us. I keep thinking…there are kids going to the bus here and other people just out walking. We’re so lucky our neighbor Bob came out and saved us.”

O’Hara is still facing a veterinary bill for emergency medical care, antibiotics and pain-killers, and the pit bulls’ owner has not offered to pay it.

O’Hara said an animal control officer went to the residence and interviewed the owner. But she said. “He was so sorry, but he couldn’t do anything.”

The  manager of the Division of Animal Services, said the officer couldn’t take any action because there is currently a “gap” in the animal control ordinance.  The proposed ordinance would allow Animal Services to deal with aggressive dogs even before an attack.

O’Hara is not satisfied with the proposed ordinance, stating that “after a third violation…the (dog) could have killed someone.  She wants to see a penalty of $1,000, plus all medical bills for the victim(s) and, if the dog kills, it should be put down.

Dog attacks do not end for the victim, she says. “At first, I couldn’t go back outside. ... I just feel so violated. They say you’re never attacked once. You’re attacked every time you think about it.”

A neighbor carrying a can of pepper spray as she walked her golden retriever, said. “A lot of people here walk their dogs, and they’re worried.”



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