A man taking a short hike through a park in Hampton, Virginia (VA), suffered serious facial and bodily injuries when two pit bulls attacked him. The dogs’ owners had let the animals off their leashes, and they charged and set on the man when he fell while trying to run away.
The attack happened in August 2017 but recently came to the public’s attention when the dog bite victim went to a television station to ask for an investigation into why no legal action had been taken against the dogs’ owners. The station described the victim’s injuries as deep gashes to his face, arms and back that have since become scars.
- Walking dogs on leashes except when using specially trained work or hunting dogs.
- Buying a license.
- Showing proof of a current rabies vaccination and of spaying or neutering when buying the license.
- Picking up after the dog during walks.
- Allowing dogs to roam when they are properly fenced or caged, which means no tethering.
- Keeping dogs confined to the owners’ property except on walks or in vehicles.
The Hampton website on city dog laws emphasizes that “unconfined dogs are the largest source of dog attacks.” Keeping this in mind is important for two reasons.
First, all dogs bite. While even my Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I have compiled a list of dog breeds that most prone to biting, the reality is that any startled, sick, or poorly trained dog is a risk for attacking people. The ASPCA emphasizes this in its official statement on pit bulls, which boils down to “a dog will act according to it training, treatment, and control by it owner.”
Second, letting a dog off its leash in public, as happened in Hampton’s Sandy Bottom Nature Park, leaves the dog out of control and, often, out of earshot of commands. This can constitute negligence and, per local ordinance, a violation of law.
The victim of the pit bull attack in the park that sits between I-64 and the Hampton Roads Center Parkway should have strong grounds for making negligence claims against the owners of the pit bulls. They failed to meet their duties as keepers of potentially dangerous dogs, and there is evidence that they neglected to comply with leash laws. The claims could be made against the dog owners’ homeowner’s or renter’s policies because, by law, animals are considered property from which their owners must protect other people. Medical bills, pain, suffering, and scarring could all merit compensation and damages.