Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on July 23rd, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Greene County Man Claims Dog-Bite Case Left in Limbo-Vague Laws

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by Zane Cagle

[cbc_playlist videos=”10335″]Health Department No Longer Responds to Dog Bit Attacks Outside City Limits

Due to budget cuts, Greene County, Missouri has a different way to handle dog bite attacks. A recent story as reported by KY3.com, discusses a dog bite attack that resulted in the victim being in “limbo” after the dog attack due to a change in county reporting procedures.

According to reports, the Greene County man was riding his bicycle on his usual path when he was attacked by four dogs. The victim remembers the barking, biting dogs, “He actually bit me pretty deeply in four parts, two of them were very deep. I had to use my bike as my shield because the dog that bit was the dog that persistently kept trying to bite me again or attack me. And I was already bleeding”

The man was assisted by some passers-by and taken for medical treatment. In the past, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department would have handled the incident, however, that procedure has changed. Katheryn Wall, spokesperson for the health department said, “People still call us, expected those services that had gotten in past years and we have to send them elsewhere. We can’t respond to bites, we can’t respond to complaints or dogs at large. We just don’t have the authority anymore outside those Springfield city limits”.

Those services include notifying the dog owners, discovering whether the animal has up-to-date vaccinations and possible quarantine of the animal to observe for rabies symptoms, however, the health department’s jurisdiction does not extend beyond the city limits anymore. Finally the Green County Commission eventually had to issue an order for the dogs’ owner to either: provide proof the animals had their rabies shots; to put the dog in quarantine to observe for rabies symptoms; or to put the dog down so it can be tested for rabies. However, the commission reported that the owner showed signs of being evasive and non-compliant with the order.

There is no law specifying how long a person has to turn over their dog for testing, but the Greene county dog bite victim did not have the luxury of time. Since he had no idea if the dogs had rabies or if he now had rabies, he reported that he had to endure the rabies vaccine shots. The regimen of vaccinations required more than a dozen injections, straight into the wounds and without anesthesia.  “I will say it is like if someone were injecting acid into your flesh”, said the victim. Furthermore, the victim has been frustrated with the process of reporting an incident and getting information about the dogs including vaccination updates.

Dog Bite-It’s more common that you think

According to statistics, there are around 83.3 million dogs in the United States kept in approximately 56.7 households.  The CDC survey reports that are an average of 4.5 million American dog bite victims per year, 1.5% of the population. With 885,000 bites per year, almost one out of every five are serious enough to require medical attention.  That number is somewhat deceptive as many dog bites go unreported.  Dog bites send nearly 368,000 victims to the hospital emergency departments yearly (1,008 daily).  Dog bite injuries can range from minor to major reconstructive surgery and even death.

Missouri Does Not Have the “One Bite Law”

Few states still have the “one bite law”. Another name is the “one free bite rule” is a legal doctrine that determines whether the owner of a domestic animal such as a dog can be held legally liable for injuries caused by that animal.  Missouri does not have the “one bite rule’ rather Missouri has strict liability for dog bite injuries.  Most states have enacted dog-bite statutes and most often these statutes create a form of “strict liability” for dog bites. Strict liability means that the defendant is held liable if a certain event occurs, regardless of whether the defendant could have done anything to prevent the event.  The typical strict liability dog bite statute says that the defendant is liable if his dog bit a plaintiff and:

*The plaintiff was legally allowed to be where he was when the bite occurred, and

*The plaintiff did not provoke the dog.

If You are the Victim of Dog Attack

If you are bitten by a dog, the follow steps are important:

  1. Seek immediate medical care.  Depending on the seriousness of your injuries, immediate first aide and medical care is crucial. Risk of infection after a dog bite is too big of a risk to ignore medical treatment.
  2. Identify the dog. Find out who owns the dog or if it is a stray to determine whether it has had rabies vaccinations. The outcome of the dog identification is an important factor in your medical care as it determines whether you will have to go through the painful rabies vaccination regime described above.
  3. Gather information. To safeguard your future rights as a victim of a dog bite, obtain the name and address of the dog owner in addition to the dog license information.
  4. File an incident report with your city, county or animal control or Sheriff’s department.  These legal documents create a paper trail authorities will need to enforce effectively
  5. Photograph injuries. Again, document your injuries and treatment in order to safeguard your future rights. Photograph your injuries even if you have to unwrap gauze–obviously, confer with a doctor and or nurse as needed in order      to  do this step as they will advise you on a safe manner in which to do so.
  6. Contact a dog bite attorney.  Just like any other accident, the earlier you contact an attorney, the better.  An attorney can assist with the documentation and investigation of the dog bite incident.  Besides your attorney, your doctor and medical providers will be the primary people who will look after your best interest.

The Greene County dog bite victim in the above story is a horrific story.  However, often dog bites are not reported well and then often, the follow through on gathering information regarding the offending animal is not done thoroughly unless the injuries are extremely serious or fatal.  Many times, individuals do not know what to do following a dog bite.  As individuals as well as dog owners, we need to know the process after a dog bite.  As many of us are dog owners, we have a natural sympathy for dogs–they are man’s best friend. Almost all dogs are capable of biting as it is a natural reaction to fear and/or pain.  Being sure your dog is never put into a situation where they are fearful or hurt decreases the likelihood they will bite another.  Animals that are allowed to run freely about the community are a huge problem when it comes to biting.  In the above story, my first question would be “why were the dogs allowed to roam and come into the path of a bicyclist?”

Gathering information and documenting your injuries and treatment are critical aspects if you are the victim of a dog attack.  An experienced dog bite attorney can assist you in the reporting and documenting process following a dog bite.

If you have questions, our attorneys are available seven days a week for free consultations, toll free 1.800.685.3302or locally 314.276.1681.