Articles Posted in Dog Bites and Animal Attacks

dangerous dog

Dog owners made horrific decisions which killed young children in 2019. In Massachusetts, a 14-year-old boy was mauled to death by at least four dogs in Dighton. Then, in Michigan, two young children lost their lives to separate pit bull attacks, just months apart.

No one wants to think about the potential dangers of dogs. This is because many people own a dog or call themselves dog lovers. But the reality is dogs can be a public health risk when left unsupervised or when owners make poor decisions. Or when they interact too closely with children. Now, during the summer months, is the time to consider your family’s safety.

Children face the greatest risk of injury and suffer more than 50 percent of all dog bites, according to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Dog bites and attacks caused severe injuries and deaths across the United States and here in Massachusetts last year. In May 2019, a 14-year-old boy was killed in a dog bite attack in Dighton. He was found laying dead at a property where he was caring for dogs without supervision. There were 4 dogs in the area where his body was found and 7 other dogs on the property, according to a NBC Boston report. The dogs were reportedly not licensed in Dighton.

The boy’s grandmother had dropped him off on the large property to tend to the dogs, as she had for several months, while the dogs’ owner was away in Boston, according to the Sun Chronicle newspaper. The grandmother waited in the car and grew concerned when the boy did not return. A neighbor found the boy dead and police were called. The Bristol County District Attorney’s office investigated but declined to criminally charge the dogs’ owner.

Then, the state of Michigan lost two young children within a few months. In August 2019, three pit bulls savagely attacked a 9-year-old girl in Detroit as she rode her bike in an alley near her home, according to a local news report. The girl died from multiple injuries, despite a neighbor’s attempt to help, by shooting and killing one of the dogs. The owner of the dogs was arrested, ultimately charged with second-degree murder.

Prosecutors alleged the owner knew the dogs “were dangerous, loose and unsecured” in the backyard of his home, according to the news coverage. He allegedly went to a nearby store and the dogs broke free from the yard while he was away. The initial investigation found the fencing around the home was damaged and the garage door had also been left open.

In October, another child was attacked just a few miles away in Hazel Park, Michigan. This time, the 4-year-old boy was killed by a pit bull right in his own home. His family had been pet sitting for a friend.

“A kind gesture to help a friend in a time of need, for a dog that was said to have never shown aggressive behaviors has turned into a horrifying loss for our family,” the family said in a statement.

The attack only ended when police shot the dog with a taser gun and it fled. The boy was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The boy’s mother had fought to save her son, stabbing the dog with a knife. She was later transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

A Dog Owner’s Legal Responsibilities in Massachusetts

Man walking his dog on a leash

Always use a dog leash when you walk through your neighborhood.

To dog owners, we urge you to tend to your responsibilities. Follow your community’s local leash laws and registration requirements.

Restrain and supervise your dog at all times. In Massachusetts, the owner or keeper of a dog can be held financially responsible when their animal attacks someone. Under Massachusetts law, the injured person may seek compensation through your Massachusetts homeowner’s insurance policy. There is strict liability when a dog causes injuries, scarring or wrongful death. One does not have to prove the dog had a history of being dangerous or vicious.

Adults have a responsibility not to trespass or torment a dog at the time of the attack. But dog owners can be held liable when young children step onto their property without invitation, then are attacked. This is a very important point for dog owners to understand.

Homeowners can prevent these injuries by inspecting their home and property. Consider the age of your neighbors’ children. In most cases, the best investment you can make is strong fencing which keeps your dog contained and stops children before they grow interested in watching your dog. Read more about Massachusetts dog bite laws on our website.


Child near a dog, a delicate situation because dogs cause many severe and fatal injuries to children in Massachusetts.

When you visit friends or family, keep young children away from their dog. You will have plenty of time to introduce your child to dogs later, as they grow older.

To parents and neighbors, never underestimate the risk of dogs. Dog bites and attacks are more common than most people realize, even when you and your children know the dog. In fact, 77 percent of dog bites cause injury to their owners and children, a relative or family friends, according to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Dogs may be well behaved. Owners can feed and exercise them regularly. Yet they can still be unpredictable or become stressed and attack without warning. They are not a reliable combination with young children, no matter how dog-friendly their owner says they are.

We encourage you to exercise caution around dogs. If you are a parent, keep your children away from dogs. You have the choice when you visit friends or family members who own dogs. These are social visits and letting your child approach a dog while you talk is dangerous, even if they are with another person or older child. You want to introduce your child to dogs when they are older, taking time to consult your children’s pediatrician and school. You want to be right there with your child, not watching them from across a yard.

Watch Your Neighborhood

The risk for dog bites typically rises in the summer, with the warm weather and the start of school vacation. This year, Covid-19 has changed everything in Massachusetts. Your neighbors may be spending even more time at home. You may see their dogs out more, sometimes without supervision. You may also see some new dogs.

Call your local animal control officer if you are concerned about an unsupervised dog. Your neighbors have a responsibility to follow leash laws and these are in place to prevent injuries. Another reason is some of these dogs may also be abandoned, neglected or starved. They need special attention before they contract and spread rabies, or attack.

Facts About Dog Bite Injuries

  • From 2005 to 2018, 471 Americans were killed by dog bites, according to DogBite.org, a victim’s group.
  • Pit bulls caused more than 65 percent of fatal dog bites and attacks, according to the group.
  • Children age 5 to 9 are the most frequent victims of dog bites and attacks, according to a WBUR article.
  • Dogs are most likely to bite children in the face, neck and head, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg reports.

Seeking Medical Treatment After Dog Bites and Attacks

Most dog bites and attacks are serious. Call 911 and wait for emergency medical services. Even if you or your child have only suffered a minor wound, we encourage you to still call your pediatrician or doctor. Ask to be treated right away. This is critical because not all dogs are vaccinated.

Free Legal Consultation- Boston Dog Bite Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck has more than 100 years combined experience representing victims of dog bites and attacks in Boston and across Massachusetts. If you or your child has been injured, you may have the right to pursue financial compensation for your recovery. You may be entitled to seek damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other financial losses. This compensation can also pay for counseling for emotional distress.

Learn your legal rights. Call our Massachusetts dog bite attorneys for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.

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It is important to maintain your yard and keep it safe at all times. But this summer, as Massachusetts recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, more people will likely spend more time at home. This means you must take extra care in protecting your home, your family and neighbors from common backyard injuries, such as falls, dog bite injuries and swimming pool accidents.

In Massachusetts, homeowners have a duty to make a reasonable effort to keep their property reasonably safe so lawful visitors are not injured. When a homeowner fails to maintain their property and someone is injured, this may result in a premises liability claim.

When children are involved, homeowners have a greater duty. Under attractive nuisance laws, property owners may be held liable if a young child is injured by an unsafe condition on their property, even if the child is trespassing. These laws recognize that children may not understand potential dangers or that they are trespassing.

Massachusetts Attractive Nuisance Law

M.G.L. c. 231, § 85Q states that a person who maintains an artificial condition upon his own land shall be liable for physical harm to children trespassing thereon under certain conditions.

A landowner can be held liable in part if they knew a child was likely to trespass or reasonably should have known, and if the landowner knew or reasonably should have known there was an unreasonable risk of death and serious bodily harm to children.

Protect Your Front and Backyard This Summer

Protect Your Pool

Baby reaching into pool

Property owners have a responsibility to lock and secure pools to prevent neighborhood children from falling in.

In Massachusetts, homeowners must enclose pools with fences which are a minimum of four feet and taller if necessary for safety. The fence should have a self-latching, self-closing gate and lock at least four feet off the ground. These requirements are meant to protect young children, as well as your lawful guests by slowing access down to your pool. A few steps you can take to secure your pool:

How old is your pool lock? Carefully inspect the integrity of your pool lock.

Inspect your fence. The Consumer Product Safety Commission published this pool safety guide on different types of fences and key specifications, such as how much space you should have between and under the fence panels. See page 6.

Consider a pool alarm. Your fence is your primary defense to keep young children out of your pool. Children can move quickly and drown silently, before you even know they have found their way into your pool. An alarm can help you respond quickly.

Think “layers of protection.” Planting large shrubs in front of your pool fence is one way to slow children down; another added benefit is children won’t be able to see the pool and are likely to forget about it.

At the end of the day: Cover your pool. Remove pool ladders and floats from the pool area and out of sight of children.

Restrain Your Dog

Child and dog in a Massachusetts backyard without supervision

Young children are at risk for dog bite injuries if they wander onto a neighbor’s property.

As a dog owner, you have a responsibility to take care of your pet, including to feed it and make sure it gets proper exercise.

As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to restrain your dog. Under Massachusetts law, you may be held liable if your dog bites or attacks. Here are a few situations when homeowners may be liable for dog bite injuries.

First, you may be held liable if your dog bites a lawful visitor. You may also be held liable if you leave your dog alone outside and it runs off your property and injures a passerby.

Then there are young children. Too young to realize the consequences, they can wander onto your property without invitation and your dog may bite. You may not even see the child come onto your property. But this is another situation when a Massachusetts homeowner may be held liable for a child’s dog bite injuries.

Just like drownings, dog bites and attacks are a frightening and debilitating experience, for children as well as owners. Some describe it as the worst experience of their life. Many victims and loved ones suffer post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What can you do to prevent a tragedy?

Invest in dog training. Hiring a trainer can help your dog master basic obedience skills.

Install a fence. Consider installing a regular fence around your yard. An invisible dog fence can be effective at keeping your dog on your property. However, it doesn’t prevent children from wandering onto your property. Fences can stop children or at least slow them down.

Remember you can’t predict how your dog will react. Many dog owners have said, “My dog is really good with kids,” just before the animal bites or attacks.

And the problem with young children in your neighborhood: a child may know you and your dog by name. They may routinely say hello when you walk your dog and have warm feelings about your pet. Your dog, however, may not feel or respond the same if the child approaches. If you have a dog, Breakstone, White & Gluck encourages you to secure and supervise your pet this summer. Remember, children are likely to be spending more time at home this summer and you may need to take additional steps.

If you have been injured, Breakstone, White & Gluck is experienced in representing young children and others after dog bites and attacks in Massachusetts. Please read our awards and settlements and contact us if we can assist you with a claim at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.

$450,000 award:  Child Suffers Facial Injury and Emotional Distress in Dog Bite Attack Details

$300,000 award: Elderly woman bitten by dog, which leads to infection, sepsis and wrongful death.

$150,000 award: Dog injures cyclist, causing bike crash and other injuries. Details

Use Your Backyard Shed

Pick up your yard each day. Pick up toys and bring in pool floats, accessories and towels so they don’t attract a child’s attention.

Certain toys, games and equipment should be used, then immediately locked away. These include portable pools.

To make this easier, keep a key to your backyard shed nearby at all times this summer. Put it in your cell phone case or on a lanyard around your neck so you can easily access your shed as often as you need.

Protect Your Backyard This Summer

2020 has been a challenging year. While we are all limited by Covid 19 this summer, these are steps we can all take to protect our families, neighbors and others from unnecessary injury, and to protect ourselves financially.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers specialize in premises liability claims, including those involving swimming pool accidents, dog bites injuries and child injuries. Learn more about our law firm: www.bwglaw.com.

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Attorney David W. White of BostonThe Boston Globe recently interviewed Attorney David W. White for an article called, “What to do if your dog bites someone.” Attorney White joined veterinarians, dog trainers and Boston animal control in explaining the legal steps following a dog bite in Massachusetts.

Breakstone, White & Gluck has decades of experience representing children and others who have been bitten and attacked by dogs. We understand that dog bites are painful, emotional and frightening for families. If you or a loved one have been injured, it is important to learn your rights. Following a dog bite, children may require multiple surgeries to recover and the emotional trauma can be crippling for their entire family. Find answers to common questions about dog bites in Massachusetts on our website. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also send us a message using our contact form.

 

Black dog bites at a woman in Massachusetts

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners who own certain dog breeds.

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners based on their dog’s breed.

Rep. Jack M. Lewis (D-Framingham) is the sponsor of H.554, which would ensure dog owners can buy insurance to provide compensation to anyone injured by their pet.

Our attorney discussing Massachusetts dog bite law with Fox 25 TV in Boston

The law is “very cut and dry,” when it comes to liability for Massachusetts dog bite cases, attorney David White told Fox-TV Boston recently.

White, a partner at Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston, spoke on the network’s morning program about Milo, the Mansfield dog which attacked and seriously injured a 6-year-old boy on Jan. 3. The boy suffered severe facial lacerations and required more than 400 stitches. Last week, the Mansfield Board of Selectmen held a hearing and voted 3-2 to euthanize the dog. The dog’s owners said they planned to appeal the vote in District Court and were allowed to take Milo home after the hearing. Then, the dog attacked again, this time over the weekend on West Street in Mansfield, and ended up being euthanized before any appeal. In the second attack, the dog bit a 16-year-old teenager, who was sent to Hasbro Children’s Hospital to be treated for injuries. See news coverage.

In the TV interview, White explained the process in Massachusetts for protecting communities from dangerous dogs. When someone is injured after a dog bite, the incident is reported to a local animal control officer, police or the Board of Selectmen. The board holds a hearing to determine if the dog is dangerous. It then votes on appropriate action, which may include muzzling the dog, restraining it, ordering it to leave town or other steps.The dog owner is allowed to appeal in the District Court.

When someone is injured by a dog in Massachusetts, they can also file a lawsuit in civil court to recover damages under M.G.L. c. 140, Sec. 155.

White said the law holds dog owners strictly liable for dog attacks, only providing a few exceptions. They include if an injured person is tormenting a dog or trespassing on another person’s property. Some states have a “one bite” or “first bite” rule, but not Massachusetts.

“The law is very cut and dry,” White told Fox. “And furthermore if there is an injury to a child under the age of 7, there is a presumption the child was not teasing or tormenting the dog.”

When someone is injured, they are not required to prove the dog has injured before or that the dog is vicious.

White advised dog owners to make sure they have coverage for dog bites and attacks on their homeowner’s insurance policies. If your insurer does not provide coverage, he says find another provider who does.

Approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children are the most frequent victims, with those ages five to nine accounting for the largest numbers of injuries.

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pit-bull-180.jpgState lawmakers have handed cities and towns with pit bull ordinances a set back after passing a new animal control law which says no regulation may be specific to breed.

Boston, Lowell and Worcester are among the Massachusetts communities which have implemented pit bull ordinances in the past 10 years. None of the communities will be grandfathered under the legislation, “An Act Further Regulating Animal Control.” Gov. Deval Patrick signed the bill into law Aug. 2 and it takes effect Oct. 31.

Boston enacted its pit bull ordinance in 2004 and it serves as the model for many other local communities seeking to reduce dog bites and attacks. The ordinance states dogs must be muzzled outside the owner’s private home, apartment and car. All dogs in Boston are required to be leashed off their owner’s property.

Under the pit bull ordinance, the owner must post a sign alerting the public and guests that there is a pit bull on the premises. Additionally, a dog owner may not register or keep more than two pit bulls.

If the pit bull owner is renting an apartment, the landlord must sign off written permission, which must then be presented to the city’s Animal Control Officer.

Worcester and Lowell have similar ordinances to prevent dog bites and attacks, but they also require pit bulls be spayed and neutered. Lowell’s ordinance began in July 2011, according to the Lowell Sun. Local law enforcement is still assessing the impact. But one visible change is more pit bull owners are registering their animals with the city. In the last six months of 2011, 30 pit bulls were registered with the city, according to the city clerk. In 2012, 56 pit bulls have been registered.

Worcester officials report the opposite since their ordinance took effect on April 1, 2011, according to the Telegram & Gazette. The Worcester city clerk’s office reports in 2012, there were 221 licensed pit bulls in the city and an estimated 275 unlicensed. The number of registered pit bulls now stands at fewer than 70.

The city is still awaiting figures on recent dog attacks. But it implemented the law after a surge in dog attacks and figures which showed more than half involved pit bull attacks.
From Sept. 30, 2008 to Sept. 30, 2009, the city received 55 complaints of dog attacks or fear of a dog attack; 29 involved pit bulls. Police department figures further showed pit bulls were involved in 25 percent of the city’s dog bites over a two-year period.

The new state law also includes other changes to animal control regulations, including providing standards for how police chiefs handle dogs deemed dangerous and establishes a Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund, which will be funded by voluntary donations on state tax returns.

Related:
Worcester pit bull regulations nullified, Telegram & Gazette.

New state law could maul Lowell’s pit-bull ordinance, Lowell Sun.

Bill S.2192, An Act further regulating animal control.
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dog-sidewalk.jpgWith the return of the warm weather, many dogs are back outside with their owners in our neighborhoods, parks and yards.

This is the time of year dog bites often occur, as dogs encounter unfamiliar people and environments. Dog bite injuries can result when dogs are not properly trained, do not receive the right care and are not prepared for social interaction.

May 20 to May 26 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). One of the organization’s messages is that dog bites and dog attacks are preventable if owners take the right steps to train their pets.

Children are the most frequent dog bite injury victims. Of 800,000 Americans who receive medical attention for dog bites each year, approximately half are children. In 50 percent of dog bite cases involving children, the dog responsible belongs to a neighbor.

Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims. On the job, more than 5,600 postal workers are attacked by dogs each year.

If you own a dog or plan to obtain one, you have a responsibility to practice safe ownership and protect others from dog bites and dog attacks. Our Boston dog bite lawyers offer you these safety tips:

  • Make sure your dog is licensed and has received all of its vaccinations. These are your most basic responsibilities.
  • Always use a leash when walking your dog. This is a courtesy to other people you encounter and helps protect everyone.
  • Select your dog carefully and take time to research the breed. If it is a puppy, ask to meet the parent dogs. Never obtain a dog on impulse.
  • Make sure your dog is always wearing its tags with appropriate identification information.
  • Ask your veterinarian if they suggest a dog training school. If you choose to use one, do your research. Seek out references online and ask the dog school owner for client names.
  • Train your dog to know basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and other actions. This builds a bond of trust between your dog and people
  • Ask your veterinarian or dog trainer whether crate training may be appropriate
  • Make sure your dog has opportunity for healthy interaction with other people and animals as a puppy. According to the AMVA, the first 6 to 14 weeks are critical to a puppy’s social development. The challenge is this is the time when a puppy is most vulnerable to illness so it is important to work with your veterinarian.
  • Do not put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Make your home a safe environment for yourself, your dog, guests and neighbors. Consider fencing your yard. Make sure you have a door partition and a crate. Also make sure there are not any door or window openings which allow your dog to exit your home on its own.
  • Your dog needs physical exercise and mental stimulation. Make time in your schedule to regularly walk and exercise your dog.
  • Dogs can become bored and potentially destructive when left alone for many hours at a time. If yours is left alone all week, consider dog walking or daycare services for parts of the week.
  • Avoid high-excitement games with your dog, such as wrestling.
  • If your dog is showing signs of aggression, talk to your veterinarian and a dog trainer. If your dog bites or attacks someone, the injuries may be severe and long-term. You may also be held liable and have to pay damages.

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A Lowell dog attack last week highlighted the need for communities to adopt strong dangerous dog laws and properly enforce them.

Last December, the Lowell City Council passed an ordinance defining a dangerous or vicious dog as one that has attempted a dog bite or dog attack on a person, has a tendency to threaten the safety of domestic animals or is involved in dog fighting, drug trafficking or gang activity.

Once a dog is deemed dangerous, its owner has to obey certain conditions to protect public safety. First, the dog must be kept indoors or in a locked pen. A sign must be posted warning the public that a dangerous dog resides on the property. If the dog is taken off the property, it must be muzzled and kept on a leash no more than 4-feet long. The dog’s owner must also hold $100,000 in liability insurance.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has allowed the claim of a child who was bitten by a dog to proceed to trial against the landlords, even though the landlords did not own the dog.  The ruling reverses a lower court ruling in favor of the landlord.

The plaintiff was ten years old when he was attacked by a pit bull named Tiny. Tiny belonged to another tenant in the same 4-family building. Tiny had been found in the woods and adopted by the family. Tiny had demonstrated some aggressive behavior prior to the date of the incident.  The plaintiff’s family maintained that they had lodged multiple complaints with the landlords about not just the presence of the dog, but also its aggressive behavior. The landlords were also informed that Tiny was allowed to roam unrestrained, a violation of the Waltham leash law. The landlords claimed they had no knowledge that the dog might be dangerous.

The landlords had a no-dog policy for the premises, but failed to enforce that policy with regard to Tiny.  In fact, the plaintiff’s family had previously given up its dogs because of the landlords’ policy.

On the date of the incident, Tiny was sitting on a porch, unrestrained, then ran across the yard, jumped a fence, and bit the plaintiff who was playing in the neighbor’s yard. The ten-year old had mulitiple dog bite injuries to his leg.

The Superior Court judge ruled that the landlords were not negligent, and that the fears of the pit bull were “subjective.”  The Appeals Court disagreed.

In Massachusetts, a third party such as a landlord, is not liable under the Massachusetts strict liability statute governing dogs. While a dogs owner or keeper is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog, a third party can be liable only if he or she is negligent. A landlord does not insure that the property will be safe, and has a duty to use reasonable care for the premises.  Thus, in this case, the plaintiff is required to prove that the landlord knew or should have known of the dangers of the dog.  The landlords could not be held liable just on the fact that the dog was of a dangerous breed, but could be held liable if they had knowledge of its dangerous behavior.

The Appeals Court also noted that negligence cases are ordinarily best left to a jury’s consideration, since the cases often turn on disputed facts. Given the disputed facts in this case, namely whether the landlord had received reports of the dog’s dangerous behavior, the case was sent back to the Superior Court for trial.

The name of the case is Nutt v. Florio, Appeals Court No. 08-P-81 (October 19, 2009).  

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