While dogs are often loving companions, they can sometimes be dangerous. A Danbury man was seriously injured in a dog attack recently. According to news reports, the man was hunting on family property when he was attacked by three Labrador retriever mixes that belonged to a relative. The victim is reportedly experienced with dogs and had previously been around the dogs that attacked him. As a Danbury Volunteer Firefighter, he was involved in starting the department’s K-9 unit. News reports stated that the man’s injuries would require multiple surgeries. The dogs’ owner voluntarily surrendered the dogs to Stokes County Animal Control to be euthanized.
This incident serves as a reminder that even people with experience handling dogs can be injured in a dog attack, and even known dogs can be dangerous. The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
North Carolina law holds the owner of a “dangerous dog” strictly liable for injuries caused by the dangerous dog. N.C.G.S. § 67-4.4. A dangerous dog is defined as a dog that has inflicted severe injury on a person without provocation or that has been determined by the local authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because of certain behaviors. Additionally, any dog that is owned or kept for dogfighting, or that has been trained in dogfighting, is considered a dangerous dog. N.C.G.S. § 67-4.1. Furthermore, any person who allows a dog older than six months to run at large at night unaccompanied by a person is liable for damages or injuries that dog causes. N.C.G.S. § 67-4.1.
Even if a particular dog is not a dangerous dog under the statute, a dog owner may be liable for injuries caused by the dog under a theory of negligence. For a dog owner to be found liable in negligence, the injured person must show that the owner knew or should have known from the dog’s past behavior or from the general propensities of that type of animal that the dog, if not properly restrained, is likely to do something that a reasonable person could foresee would result in an injury. The court would therefore consider the size, habits and nature of the dog, as known by the owner. Hunnicutt v. Lundberg, 379 S.E.2d 710, 711-12 (1989). An owner is charged with knowing the behavioral traits of the dog’s breed. The owner of a Rottweiler, for example, has been held liable for injuries caused by the dog even though there was no evidence that the subject dog had previously shown any vicious behavior. Hill v. Williams, 547 S.E.2d 472, 478 (N.C. App. 2001). If arguing negligence based on the breed of the dog, the injured person, however, must prove the dog’s breed. Harris v. Barefoot, 704 S.E.2d 282 (N.C. App. 2010).
It can therefore be difficult to prove negligence against a dog owner when the dog in question has not shown vicious propensities. Additionally, the contributory negligence rule applies to a dog bite victim alleging negligence against the dog’s owner. If the victim had any amount of fault in the incident, even as little as 1%, he or she would not be able to recover for the injuries.
If you have been injured by someone else’s dog, you need the assistance of a North Carolina dog bite attorney. The personal injury attorneys at Auger and Auger have the knowledge and experience to assist with your claim. Please call (800) 559-5741 to schedule a free consultation.
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