Unleashed: Dangerous Dogs Directive in Los Angeles
Recently, a Los Angeles County woman was charged with three felony counts for failing to control her vicious dog. Her Akita attacked three separate people in less than two years – the last incident occurring in November. One of those victims was an eight year old child.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services issued a directive to immediately impound dogs that seriously injure people or other dogs and cats. According to NBC, the owner of these impounded dogs must then attend a Dangerous Animal Hearing at which the city will decide if the dog needs to be removed or euthanized.
In the past, criminal charges brought against the owners of attacking dogs have been rare, but we may see that happening more often, especially since the death of Diane Whipple in 2001. A judge sentenced one of the dog owners to 15 years to life in prison, for second degree murder.
A man in Lancaster, California was also convicted of second degree murder and could serve 24 years to life because of four pit bulls that terrorized the neighborhood – engaging in at least seven other attacks in the 18 months before mauling a woman walking through the neighborhood in 2013.
Last year a Michigan couple faced murder charges because their two dogs attacked and killed a passing jogger, after having attacked others in the neighborhood. In this instance, the dog owners previously failed to show for a court hearing when the dogs bit an elderly man. Additionally, animal control may also have been at fault as they merely ordered a 10 day quarantine of the animals after the dogs attacked a passer-by in 2012.
Dog Attacks & Injury Claims
According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all money paid out for homeowners’ liability claims in 2013. From 2003 to 2013, the average cost per dog bite claim has risen over 45 percent.
National Canine Research Council: Co-occurring factors in dog bite-related fatalities over 10 year period. In California alone the value of dog bite injury claims totaled over $64 million – the highest state amounts paid out across the nation – but not the highest average cost per claim, falling well behind New York. The average insurer’s cost per claim is just over $43,100 in New York, $33,700 in California, and $31,600 in Wisconsin. These numbers cry out for the need for responsible pet ownership.
Personal injury awards for dog attacks vary case by case – it all depends on how badly an individual was injured by the dog, whether extensive medical treatment or plastic surgery is needed, and how the attack changed the victim’s lifestyle in the long-run.
Additionally, a jury may award exemplary damages from the dog owner. In such a case, a jury wishes to punish the owner for willful conduct or grossly negligent behavior, i.e. letting a historically dangerous dog roam the neighborhood. Theoretically, exemplary damages could be awarded against the Los Angeles woman with the dangerous Akita mentioned above.
A Los Angeles County ordinance already sets procedures for dealing with dangerous dogs. Owners of vicious canines may be fined, have restrictions imposed, or be forced to give up the dog to someone else. Ultimately though, the County could order to have the dog euthanized.
Hopefully the new directive from the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services will further help to enforce the ordnance – allowing for the immediate impounding and subsequent evaluation of these dangerous animals.