Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough of personal injury law firm, Mazow McCullough, discuss FAQs on dog bite cases. They have offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with extensive experience as dog bite attorneys.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough of the law firm Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys, and today we’re talking about FAQs on dog bite cases. Robert and Kevin, welcome.
Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.
Robert Mazow: Thank you, John.
Will the Dog Get Put Down After an Incident is Reported?
John: So Kevin, let’s start with you. If I report the dog bite or sue the owner, will the dog automatically get put down?
Kevin: The dog will not automatically get put down simply from reporting the incident and/or if the authorities are notified of an incident through a lawsuit. But there’s so much more that goes into that analysis. Because whether or not a dog will face a punishment or ultimately be put down due to a dog bite incident is really a result of that city or town where the incident occurs, as well as what the history of that dog may be.
I know, oftentimes, and it’s a human reaction and a natural response, that if you’ve been bit by a dog or attacked by a dog to be concerned about what may ultimately happen to the dog, but that could be [inaudible] out of your control.
It’s very important to report a dog bite attack or incident to the local police or the animal control officer so that they’re aware of the incident and that they can keep track of it. But what ultimately happens to the dog is really outside of your hands because, again, it depends upon what the rules and regulations are for the city or town where the incident occurs, and it really depends upon whether or not that dog has had any prior incidents or in fact has bitten anyone in the past.
Robert: I just want to add a couple things. It’s rare in our experience for a dog to be put down as a result of a single bite or an attack. I can’t say it doesn’t happen, and I’ll give you an example of one time that it did. But cities, towns, police departments, they are going to be reluctant to make that kind of a suggestion to put a dog down simply because of a bite. So I don’t think people should be concerned that if you make a claim or you put somebody on notice that the dog owner’s going to lose their dog as a result of it. Now, as Kevin said, it depends on the history of the dog, it depends on the viciousness of the attack, depends on the particular city or town ordinances involved.
We had a case a couple of years ago where a very dangerous, dangerous breed of dog attacked and killed a child. I mean, it was horrible. I mean, the police, in order to get the child at least free from the attack had to shoot the dogs. Now, of course, there wasn’t a process of going through the channels to put a dog down. But the cases that we have dealt with, it’s been very rare. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any other cases where the authorities have required the dog be put down. They have required dogs be removed from the city, and they have required dogs be quarantined for a certain period of time. But to actually be put down is really the exception, not the rule.
John: Okay. Yeah, that’s important to know I think because there are a lot of animal lovers out there, and animal lovers get bit by dogs just like anybody else does. You don’t necessarily want to see that dog have to be put down, but like you said, you might not know that when you got bit by that dog, it wasn’t the first time that dog has bit five other people. If that’s the case, I might not even know that that happened; and in that case, maybe it makes sense for that dog to be put down if that dog has a strong history of bites that I might not even be aware of.
Kevin: Yeah, and that’s something that no one knows at the start of a case or a situation or an incident, John. As Rob mentioned, you can have one incident that can be extreme and gruesome and vicious that a dog could be put down, and other times it may be notifying the authorities, getting the medical treatment that you need, investigating whether or not you need to obtain maybe shots and getting records from the vet from where the dog gets its own treatment or shots. Sometimes, it’s a matter of putting all that information together that reveals this dog bit three, four, or five people over the last few years. Then you could get into a situation where a city or town takes action even if the dog bite victim doesn’t want to. It’s just something that has to happen, and it’s a decision that may be out of their control, unfortunately.
Has the Dog Had His/Her Shots?
John: Rob, the next question that you get asked a lot is will somebody make sure that the dog had its shots, especially rabies shots and things like that?
Robert: Yeah. So if the person is bit by a dog, they need to obviously find out if the dog has their shots. Now, there’s a couple of ways you can do that. The first is if you know who the dog owner is, you contact the dog owner and you get the paperwork either from them or from the vet. Towns, at least in Massachusetts, cities and towns, when you register your dog and you get dog tags, you have to let the police know. You register with the town hall or the police that your dog has the proper shots.
It is very unfortunate when we get a case where a person can’t identify whether the dog has had the rabies shots. Sometimes people have to go through a couple rounds of rabies shots before that’s even found out. But again, that’s more the exception than the rule. Generally, people have their dogs properly taken care of. Particularly with rabies shots, we tend to see that within a very short period of time we can get ahold of those certifications from the dog owner or from the police department or from the dog owners’ vets pretty quickly.
John: Do we see many stray dogs anymore, and what happens if a stray dog bites somebody that I know or myself?
Robert: It’s a problem. First of all, it’s not a case we would generally be able to take, because you need to have a dog owner or a dog keeper. We don’t see a lot of stray dogs around Massachusetts, so it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t come across our radar. If it does happen, you got to get yourself to the hospital, you got to get yourself to your doctor, and you got to start the rabies process, because there’s no other way to know. I suppose if you can somehow contain the dog and the dog can be taken in and put down, they can test it that way.
John: Kevin, the next question that you get a lot is, do the police always get involved in dog bite cases? Again, this might come from somebody who got bit by a neighbor’s dog, and they feel bad if they know that the police are going to show up at that person’s door and cause a scene, that kind of thing. I mean, obviously, I think the most important thing is the victim gets the treatment that they need. But do the police always get involved?
Kevin: John, I can tell you unequivocally that, no, the police do not always get involved, but I can also say that they should. With every dog bite or dog attack, it is extremely important to not only gather information, but as we’ve discussed already, just to track the history of a particular dog. When the police are not called, it is much more difficult to track those bites and those events.
It’s also could be more difficult to prove your claim if you’ve been bit or injured. Now, if it’s a serious enough of an incident with a serious enough injury or involving a child, typically we do see with the importance of that event and the magnitude of the event, that the police get called.
But what we also see a lot of are people walking at the park or taking a walk in their neighborhood or walking a local rail trail, and they may come across another party walking a dog or with a dog, and there’s an incident, there’s a bite, there’s a situation. That person may be injured, that person fully intends to get medical treatment. There may be a discussion with the dog owner at that time, but the police are not called.
Again, that can make things difficult, not only to track the history of a particular dog, but also within proving your claim. When you get the information that you need and you continue on home and then you make your way to the hospital or to your doctor and you start to explain what happened in the event and maybe the wound gets infected and it becomes more serious, and then you’re reaching out to an attorney a few weeks later and you’re circling back trying to get the information that you wish you had. So it is so important that people know, if you’re bit by a dog or you’re attacked by a dog and there’s any wound, you should contact the police, you should contact animal control, and let them assist you with gathering the information that you need, documenting the event, making sure that you get the medical treatment that you need. It is so important.
There’s a fair concern. People don’t want to call 911 or call the police if it’s a puncture wound or even a tear that may require some stitches. We sort of have this mentality where we’re going to suck it up and downplay this as much as possible. The dog may be nice. You may know the dog owner. But I would recommend in every situation, although it doesn’t happen, I would recommend, knowing the obstacles that we face ahead with pursuing the claim, to always contact the police and always notify the police and capture that information contemporaneously with the event.
What To Do When Dogs Fight
John: Okay. Robert, our final question is more of one that happens before a bite and hopefully can help to prevent a bite from happening. What should I do if I see two dogs fighting, or maybe my dog is fighting with another dog?
Robert: Well, I’m a dog owner, so I’m maybe biased here. Let me first start with the first part of your question. If I’m a witness and I have no ownership of either dog or relationship with either dog, I wouldn’t get anywhere near two dogs fighting. You don’t know anything about these dogs. You don’t want to take the chance. I mean, the dogs will hopefully disengage at some point on their own. But if I’m out there on the street, I see two dogs fighting, I stay as far away as I can. I can call for help. You can call 911 if you think it’s going to get into some real problem.
So if it’s my dog and I’m walking down the street … We see this a lot. We see two dogs walking down the street with their owners at the leash and they get entangled. You try to break it up and the person gets bit, and they’re automatically just going to assume that it was the other dog that bit them, not their dog. Those are tricky cases. But if it’s your own dog, I can speak for myself, if it’s my dog and if there’s any way that I could try to disengage the dogs from each other without endangering myself or somebody else, I’m going to do that. That’s not advice to somebody though. I’m not suggesting you do that. You don’t want to put yourself into danger. You don’t want to put yourself into a situation where you’re going to get hurt.
Best case scenario is if your dog is fighting with another dog and it gets serious, call 911. Call for help if you can’t somehow extract the dogs from the situation.
John: All right, that’s really great advice. Rob and Kevin, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Robert: Thank you, John.
Kevin: Thanks, John.
John: For more information on dog bite cases or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call (855) 693-9084.