Multnomah County Sued by Victim
Portland, OR - Since the recent attack in Molalla, the Oregonian newspaper has written another pit bull debate story. Unfortunately the piece focuses on "to ban" or "not to ban," instead of engaging the many options that lie between. Progressive cities such as Omaha and Little Rock have passed laws that combine anti-tethering and breed-specific laws. Omaha requires pit bull owners to carry insurance and to muzzle the dog when off-property. Little Rock requires pit bull owners to spay/neuter, microchip and register their dogs.
The article also talks about an attack this past summer that points to a glowing problem in Multnomah County, which hosts the city of Portland. Several weeks ago, a separate article (Counties keep loose leash on bad dogs) talked about the dismal rate of dangerous dog convictions in the county, 1 per 651 bite investigations. While over in Washington County, there were 5 convictions for 363 bite investigations. The system in Multnomah appears broken and now the county is being sued. We can only hope the lawsuit stretches into 7 figures.
"Jennifer Scott of Portland said she spent five days in the hospital after a loose pit bull/Rottweiler mix bit her on the hands, shoulders, arms and chest this summer as she left home with her Dachshund. According to a lawsuit she filed against the dog's owner, the estate of the owner's father and Multnomah County, the 98-pound dog, Buddha, had previously sent two other people to the hospital in attacks in 2005 and 2006.
The lawsuit says Scott is still receiving medical care for her injuries and estimates her economic damages at $150,000 since the attack. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that Multnomah County failed to follow its own dangerous-dog rules in dealing with Buddha. Multnomah County code has various categories for dangerous pets. It defines as "level 4" behavior any at-large dog that "aggressively bites any person." An attack at that level would trigger restrictions on how and where the animal could be kept."
Dogs sheltered: 3,425
Calls for service: 8,131
Bite investigation: 651
Dogs sheltered: 2,527
Calls for service: 8,505
Bite investigations: 363
Dogs sheltered: 1,390
Calls for service: 2,624
Bite investigations: 275
Adam Goldfarb, issues specialist for the Humane Society of the United States, is mentioned in the article as well. He said that "going after the dog owner" and anti-tethering laws could help reduce the dangerous dog problem, even though he points out that unneutered dogs also pose a significant threat. This is exactly why Little Rock combined anti-tethering with a mandatory spay/neuter law for pit bulls. Such a law considerably cuts down on the backyard breeding of pit bulls and reduces the occupancy rates of pit bulls in shelters too.
Municipalities and policy makers must weigh the rights of victims, such as Jennifer Scott, Christopher Friesen and Jayda Kempas, versus the rights of dog owners. The Multnomah County example shows that existing county laws did little to prevent this attack. Furthermore, it appears that even after the dog had previously bitten two times and sent both victims to the hospital, the law did not require the owner to have liability insurance. It is disheartening how heavily Multnomah County laws currently favor dog owners.
12/28/08: Buddha, the Dog that Attacked Jennifer Scott and Four Others
12/11/08: Coverage of Oregon Pit Bull Attacks and Statewide Debate
08/31/08: Dog Attack Victim Lawsuits and Settlement Awards
06/28/08: Coverage of the Omaha Pit Bull Attack - DogsBite.org
06/08/08: Little Rock Pit Bull Ordinance: Possibly a Very Effective Blend