Now, I would like to provide you some more specific information about the current state of the law surrounding dog bites and things you need to know if you intend to pursue a claim for injuries sustained in a dog bite or attack.
As discussed in the last article, in order to successfully recover compensation (or money) for injuries due to a dog bite, you must show that the dog owner or custodian's behavior was negligent or unreasonable.
Many people often ask me whether certain breeds of dogs, like rottweillers or pit bulls, are automatically considered dangerous by the law and if such dogs bite or attack are their owners or custodians automatically negligent.
Surprisingly, the answer is no, even though many animal experts feel that certain breeds of dogs are more dangerous or more vicious than others.
According to a study recently completed by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes are responsible for 74% of attacks as a whole and 68% of the attacks upon children.
In his study, Mr. Clifton states, "Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are dogs who not only must be handled with special precautions, but also must be regulated with special requirements appropriate to the risk they may pose to the public and other animals, if they are to be kept at all."
Despite the opinions of these experts, almost all local Virginia ordinances have specifically stated that a dog is not vicious or dangerous just because it is a certain breed.
As an example, the Fairfax County Code, states "no dog shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is a particular breed of dog prohibited."
Also, the Prince William County Code has no per se rule, which labels a certain breed of dog to be dangerous.
Another frequently asked question is whether the law will consider the dog owner to be at fault for his dog's behavior if the dog is running off the dog's property without any sort of restraint.
The answer to that question is yes.
Most local Virginia ordinances require dogs to be leashed when off their property and/or to be maintained on their property by either a fence or some other obstruction.
Generally, the wording of these local ordinances is that "no dog shall run unrestricted." The word "unrestricted" has been defined as meaning not under the control of the owner or his custodian either by leash, cord, chain, electronic device or primary enclosure when off the property of premises of the owner or custodian.
If an owner allows his dog to run unrestricted, then the owner or custodian is negligent as a matter of law whether or not the owner had knowledge that the dog had previously bitten someone or exhibited prior dangerous behavior.
The law controlling dog bite/attack claims is very complex and I urge you to keep your eyes open for the next installation in this series, which will hopefully continue to educate about the law and how it may apply to you or someone you love who has been bitten or otherwise injured by a dog.