Newspaper Editorial: The Bite Out of Bites
Raleigh, NC - The editors of The News & Observer point out spotty animal control regulations and lack of restitution for victims of dog attacks. They write that lawmakers need to consider standardizing the definition of "dangerous" and "aggressive" dogs, and ensure bite victims have a fair chance to recover expenses for medical care.
- Laws ought to protect people from dogs if the dogs have a history of biting, and allow for reasonable compensation for medical expenses. Instead, North Carolina's laws are outdated and applied in a spotty manner.
- Animal bites are increasing in the Triangle's largest city. In 2007, police responded to 367 bites, an increase of 56 percent over 2000. WakeMed Raleigh treated 136 dog-bite victims last year, up from 99 in 2005.
- Few dogs are declared "dangerous," which triggers tough measures to protect people who live near the animal. Despite the increase in attacks, just two or three dogs each year are declared dangerous by Raleigh's animal control officers.
- Courts tend not to hold an owner liable the first time a dog bites someone. Sympathy for the animal in those cases may be a nice gesture. But it doesn't pay the bills for a doctor's care, possibly including rabies shots, which are about 2,000 dollars.
- Much of state law on dog attacks and owners' liability was passed in the 19th century. These laws didn't envision subdivisions stacked backyard to backyard. Nor was a trip to an emergency room potentially a major financial event.