Dogs My Lose Right to Bite
New York - In 2003, Juan Abel Mendez's labrador bit an 8-year-old girl's face. Scooter had never shown any aggression prior to this. New York, like many states, follows a so-called "one bite" rule for dogs, where owners aren't liable for pet attacks as long as their animals never behaved viciously before. But a wave of cases like Scooter's -- which reached the New York State Court of Appeals last week -- is pushing to toss out one-bite rules.
American Dog Owners Association spokeswoman Maureen Hill-Hauch said protecting people from animals with violent pasts makes sense. But she said the "one-bite" shield dog owners have long enjoyed should not be taken away. There are too many situations like Scooter's, she said, where ordinarily docile, friendly animals suffer an extraordinary lapse."
"Why should an owner be punished for that?" Hill-Hauch said. "I believe that every dog deserves a chance."
DogsBite.org believes that every human being that suffers lifelong affliction from such attacks should have a powerful say in the matter.
Last year in Hill-Hauch's home state, Virginia, a new law took effect creating an on line "dangerous dog registry" for pets with a history of aggressive behavior. It – also stiffened penalties for dog owners whose pets injure or kill. Such rollbacks of on-bite rules "is a trend," she said. "Many states are now writing laws that hold owners very accountable."
About 30 other states have enacted laws that wholly or partially repudiate the one-bite laws. Kenneth Philips, a personal injury lawyer, who makes it his business to know, has devoted his practice almost exclusively to trying dog attack cases and he publishes dog bite legal expertise at dogbitelaw.com. Last year he drafted a Tennessee statute that aimed to eliminate that state's venerable one-bite rule.