Vicious Dog Attack Leads to Reevaluation of Leash Laws

A vicious dog attack in Placer County, California last June is prompting officials to reevaluate the existing dog leash laws, according to The Auburn Journal.

An unleashed pit bull in a park in Auburn attacked and killed a poodle, belonging to 76-year-old Delta Wilson-Ricky.  She was forced to witness the brutal attack and then have her poodle, Lucky, die a bloody death in her arms.

Mike Winters of the Placer County Animal Services said there has been an increase in concerns over dogs running loose off leashes in the community.  This latest attack has cause legislators to take a long hard look at the laws already on the books.  In unincorporated parts of the county, dogs are required to be leashed or “under control of their owner.”

Marilyn Jasper, a Loomis resident and self-proclaimed dog lover, is on the county’s Animal Service Advisory Committee and is in favor of changes the law to make it a requirement to have all dogs leashed when not on their owner’s property.

“People will claim they have their dogs under control through voice control or hand signals but when we’re coming down a trail, members of the public and dog owners don’t know that for sure,” Jasper told The Auburn Journal.  “For the greater good there has to be a leash law.”

A counter argument presented by some dog owners is that they have spent a lot of time, and in some cases thousands of dollars to ensure that their dogs are trained properly to obey commands without being on a leash.

“But that’s like saying that you’re a safe driver so you should be able to drive 100 mph on the freeway,” says Jasper.  “It’s not a ‘trust me’ situation.  The other part of bringing in new regulations is that we need enforcement.”

The county operates within the state regulations when it comes to a dog attack.  A dog can be declared potentially dangerous after one attack and given a hearing before a county officer.  The officer can then require the dog either be confined or force it to wear a muzzle.  If there is another attack within 36 months it can be declared vicious and potentially be euthanized.

These regulations do very little to console Wilson-Ricky.  “I was personally attacked and my dog was killed,” she said.  “The only thing I want is for people in our town to be safe in their own homes and parks.  This is the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We should be able to walk freely and not be afraid.”

It is ultimately the owner’s responsibility to control their dogs and prevent harm to their neighbors.  When citizens are not expressing caution, however, it is necessary for the proper authorities to be proactive and prevent the next tragic dog attack.  The vast majority of these attacks are preventable.

Many people mistakenly believe they have a right to compensation for dog attack injuries only if the dog attacked someone before.  (Some people refer to this as the “one free bite” rule.)  However, this is NOT the law in California.  Under California law, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for damages suffered by a person who is bitten by that dog in a public place or lawfully in a private place.  This liability attaches regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

Bonnici Law GroupSan Diego injury attorney.