Recently, a seven-year-old boy suffered serious dog bites while his aunt was babysitting him at her home in Niagara Falls. It was unclear whether just one or two of the aunt’s dogs (both Rottweilers) were involved in the attack. Police said the boy had “jagged lacerations to the back of his head, his right ear was partially torn off, and large jagged lacerations to the right eye and cheek area of his face.”
“In this case, as in many others, the boy knew the dogs. The problem is that dogs are not human, they are unpredictable. We don’t know if the child provoked the dog or if the dog just turned on him,” said Brian D. Knauth, lead attorney in the personal injury department at Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “It is most likely the aunt is liable for the incident. Where children are involved, dogs — particularly those known to be aggressive breeds — must be monitored constantly.”
The parents of this child can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the aunt, however the trauma of the event and the physical damage the child endured will never go away. Typically, family relationships in this type of case are also permanently damaged, whether the parents succeed in a liability claim or not.
“Another issue in dog bite claims is that often the dog owner is not covered by house or renter’s insurance. If this is the case, the injured party can only go after the personal assets of the dog owner, which may be minimal and recovering any monies will be expensive and quite difficult,” Knauth said. “There is no doubt in my mind, the best thing to do is to teach your children how to behave around dogs so to reduce their chances of being attacked in the first place.”
Here are some safety measures parents should teach children:
- Do not go “face-to-face” with any dog, especially dogs you don’t know,
- Do not tease a dog,
- Do not startle a sleeping dog,
- Do not bother a dog when he is eating or playing with a toy,
- Do not approach a mother dog caring for puppies,
- Do not turn and run away from an aggressive dog, or scream. Instead, remain motionless, avoid eye contact, and if you are pushed to the ground curl into a ball and cover your ears and head. This shows the dog you are not a threat.