Texans love their dogs. In fact, the Lone Star State is home to half a million more dogs than there are in California, even though Texas has 12 million fewer people. With more dogs, however, comes more dog problems. In fact, Texas leads the nation in fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2013.
In addition to dog bites, general dog attacks are also a concern. If you are not bitten by a dog, but are knocked down and break a bone, you have still been injured and suffered damages. What happens after a dog attack compared to a dog bite? The short answer is that any violence perpetrated by a dog is punishable under Texas civil law. Whether you were bitten, knocked down, or severely scratched, dog owners are still held responsible for the actions of their animal.
Texas Dog Attacks
Unfortunately, dog attacks severe enough to be reported by local news are seen monthly in Texas. In late December 2018, a loose dog seriously injured a man outside his home in Dallas County. The pit-bull mix bit the man’s legs and almost severed his fingers. In October, a Houston-area 2-year-old was fatally mauled by a family dog outside their home, and in September, a vicious dog attack left a man without ears in Arlington, Texas.
Dog attacks have also made the news for incidents aside from biting. In November 2018, a 10-month-old baby in Ohio was hospitalized after the family dog jumped on her. Her injuries were not life-threatening, however.
In Texas, pit bulls have inflicted 76% of dog-bite related fatalities, followed by Rottweilers, who have inflicted 15% of these deaths. Children are at an increased risk for dog bites. 68% of victims are children ages 11 or under. Of this group, 52% are ages 2 or under. Family dogs comprise 53% of all dog attacks that end in human death and 88% of the attacks that occurred on the dog owner’s property (Dogsbite.org).
The City of Dallas in particular has acknowledged that it has a growing dog attack problem, specifically with roaming dogs. A 2016 study found that as many as 9,000 dogs roam southern Dallas. City officials have been trying to curb the problem by stepping up law enforcement in the area, but it ultimately remains up to dog owners to train and restrain their pets (CBS).
Dog Attacks and Texas Law
While some states have dog bite or dog attack statutes which specifically discuss a dog owner’s civil liability for damages caused by their animal injuring someone, Texas does not. Legal procedure for Texas dog bites is covered by the Texas Health and Safety Code State 822.005, which covers when a dog owner is considered liable and the level of criminal offense (third degree felony for injury), if applicable.
There are two ways in which an animal owner can be considered responsible for damages caused by the bite or attack:
- The owner knew that the dog had acted aggressively or had bitten someone in the past. This is known as the “one bite rule.”
- The owner was negligent (failed to use reasonable care) in controlling the dog or otherwise preventing the bite, and as a direct result of this negligence, the injured person was bitten or attacked. Owners are expected to control or restrain their dog by keeping the dog on a leash, putting up a fence, and/or not leaving doors or windows open for the dog to wander unsupervised.
When the one-bite rule is demonstrated, meaning the owner knew the dog was vicious, dangerous, or mischievous, strict liability applies. Thus, the victim does not have to prove that the owner was also negligent in restraining the dog.
Finally, most or all of these factors may be negated if the injured person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property when the bite occurred.
How to Prevent a Dog Attack
Sometimes, dog attacks seem to come out of nowhere and are extremely difficult to prevent. Other times, however, there are some precautionary methods you can employ to help avoid becoming a dog attack victim:
- Maintain a safe distance from a strange dog, even if they are on a leash.
- Ask permission before approaching a strange dog.
- Be aware of dogs’ defensive body language, including barking, growling, and snarling. Additionally, be aware of the vulnerable states in which dogs will more easily get scared or defend, including sleeping, eating, or nursing pups.
- If a dog is attempting to attack, don’t run. The dog will chase and outrun you.
Work with an Experienced Dallas Dog Attack Attorney
In the event that you or a loved one are bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog, your first step should be to seek medical attention. After that, you should contact a knowledgeable Dallas dog attack lawyer. The attorneys at Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP are available to talk about your potential case at (214) 231-0544.