DOG BITES & ANIMAL ATTACKS

In an article by Ernie Garcia in The Journal News on Sunday, June 14, 2015, he sets forth the number of dog bites in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties. The headlines reads “1,200 Bites”. Health records show hundreds of attacks of bats, cats and dogs.

The law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC has handled hundreds of dog bites/animal attacks in the 39 years that Mr. Robustelli has been practicing law. Most of our dog bite cases involved postal workers. The article points out that a letter carrier in Pearl River, New York was delivering mail on a dead end residential area and while walking in the street, he was attacked by a loose terrier mix. The letter carrier stated “a lot of people are careless. They just let their dogs run unleashed and anyone in the vicinity pays the price.” The Rockland County Health Department shows that 213 people were bitten by animals last year.

In Westchester County, 1061 people were bitten by animals in 2014. Putnam County reported 456 animal attacks in 2014. The County Health Department tracks animal bites to limit the spread of rabies. Dogs were the biggest attackers in Rockland and Westchester while the exposure to animal bites in Putnam was bats first, and dogs second. Other animal bites and attacks are from cats, raccoons, fox and skunks. Exposure to bites by wild animals are relatively rare with the exception of bats in Putnam and Westchester Counties.

A pit bull attacked a New Rochelle woman and bite her seven times in the thigh. The attack left puncture wounds, scarring and pulled muscle from her fall during the attack. Our firm represents a woman in her 50’s who was attacked in her common yard throwing out the garbage when the neighbor’s pit bull got lose and bite her on the thigh and arm and pushed her to the ground causing a tear of the rotator cuff and surgery. The pit bull who attacked in New Rochelle had bitten two other tenants in the building. A law suit followed and one of the most important issues that must be proven is that the dog had “prior vicious propensities” (attacked and bit before). The one bite rule where if no prior bits or attacks come from the dog, the owner may not be libel to the injured victim. Prior propensities does not have to be a prior bite, it could also include prior growling or showing of a dog’s teeth which should lead the owner to know the dog or animal has a prior propensity to attack. The court will also take judicial notice that certain breeds of dogs automatically have prior vicious propensities. These breeds include pit bulls, German shepherd’s, Dobermans and Rottweiler’s.

New York State law requires counties to ensure a biting animal has its vaccinations and is quarantined for ten days after a bite. Under New York’s Dangerous Dog Law, the public or a town official can take legal action in local municipal Courts against a vicious dog owner. Once a complaint has been filed in a local municipal or justice court, a Judge can order officials to seize the dog and hold it until a hearing is held. If the Judge is satisfied with the evidence given at the hearing, he can order, at the owner’s expense, neutering, spaying, training, fencing, muzzling or extra liability insurance or even euthanasia. Our firm had a dog bite case in the Town of Greenburgh where our client was bitten by a dog who had bitten 2 -3 times before. Our suit against the dog owner was in Supreme Court, Westchester County but our client had to appear in the local Greenburgh Justice Court on charges against the dog owner brought by the Town quasi criminal. The testimony from the local Court was then used against the dog owner in the civil suite in Supreme Court. In this case, the local Justice Court Judge ordered the dog pit bull mix to be fenced in, wear a muzzle if out of its yard, place dog warning signs to be put up around the outside of their house notifying of a vicious dog and leashing the dog at all times. The judge did everything but order euthanasia. Our client was a neighbor of the vicious dog’s owner who after the Court ordered all of the above, the neighbor sold it house and moved out of state. Shortly after the town Court proceeding, the owners insurance company settled our dog bit case in Supreme Court, Westchester County.

The article points out that a retired letter carrier for more than 40 years and former President of the Mount Vernon Letter Carriers Union Local had been attacked twice during his career. Even if a Court rules a dog dangerous, the Law only permits euthanasia if there is serious physical personal injury.

Most of the dog bite/animal attacks have a psychological component. Where the bite victim actually gets post traumatic stress and becomes afraid of the animal. This happens often when a small child is attacked. They become afraid of dogs or other animals for life.

If you or a loved one has been attached by a vicious animal, call the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at 914 288 0800 or e-mail us at djorobolaw@aol.com. We are here to help.