Articles Posted in Dog Attacks

The sad case of a 10-year-old Klamath Falls girl and the severe injuries she suffered when attacked by four dogs has brought the complex legal questions surrounding Oregon dog attacks back onto the public agenda.

As reported by area newspapers the East Oregonian and the Herald and News the June attack left the girl with “a torn scalp, punctured lung and broken ribs” and required several weeks of in-patient treatment at a Portland hospital. A ‘GoFundMe’ page set up by friends and neighbors to help the family deal with medical expenses quickly raised over $15,000, according to the Herald and News.

Meanwhile, according to the East Oregonian, legal proceedings concerning the dogs moved ahead. Earlier this month the Associated Press reported that the Klamath County Commission “voted unanimously… that it was in the public interest to euthanize the animals.” The paper reported that the commission, after investigating the attack, determined that the owner of the dogs, all English mastiffs, had the “inclination but not the ability” to keep the animals under proper control. It rejected an offer on the owner’s part to move the dogs to a different part of the state.

Northwest Cable News reported earlier this month on a tragic Washington dog attack story. “A week after she was attacked by pit bulls, a 65-year-old woman has died at a local hospital,” according to the cable news channel. The victim’s husband told the station he believes “the injuries from the attack triggered an underlying heart condition.”

According to NWCN, citing a report from Seattle TV station KING, the woman was attacked by two pit bulls while taking a walk near her home. The channel reports that bystanders helped pull the dogs off her and called for medical care. The animals were later destroyed.

Though the Pierce County, Washington Medical Examiner lists the cause of the woman’s death as “heart attack, injuries to the body and dog bites” the woman’s husband may be correct in believing that the dog attack was the key event triggering her subsequent heart attack. In my opinion, as a Washington and Oregon wrongful death attorney, legal questions surrounding this incident are likely to turn on the professional opinions of the doctors who treated the victim.

News reports from the east of the state indicate that a five-year-old died this weekend after being attacked by a pit bull. According to area TV station KTVB the child was with a babysitter in a family friend’s home when the attack took place.

An Associated Press article republished in The Daily Journal on Monday adds that the dog responsible for the attack has been impounded and is expected to be put down.

I have written before about the dangers of Oregon dog attacks, and the special dangers that some breeds, such as pit bulls, pose for children. Children have even fewer ways to protect themselves from a violent dog than an adult or teen and are, therefore, at special risk around these animals. Indeed, the argument could be made that granted the long history of pit bull attacks on humans no child should be around an unmuzzled pit bull and, at the very least, that children – especially smaller children – should never be left along with the animals.

A recent account in TDN.com, a Longview, Washington-based news site, lays out the horrible tale of a 5-year-old boy attacked by a pitbull and police efforts to find the animal. The dog attack took place as “the victim was riding his bike on the sidewalk when the dog, tethered to a 15-foot rope outside a duplex” bit him. The newspaper reports that there were no witness to the initial attack “but neighbors heard the boy screaming and pulled the dog off the boy.”

The victim needed 40 stitches and may eventually require further medical attention, such as a skin graft.

Despite being tethered at the time of the attack the animal is still at large because, TDN reports, “when animal control authorities arrived… the 3-year-old pitbull named Lexi was gone. Lexi’s owner (said) her son had taken off with the dog and she did not know where he was.” According to the newspaper local authorities are especially concerned about finding the pitbull so that they can ensure it has been properly vaccinated against rabies, after it was discovered that “employees at the Oregon animal hospital listed on the (rabies) certificate said the veterinarian who allegedly signed it had never worked at the clinic” and that the animal had never been treated there.

Yamhill County has been considering the question: could your dog become responsible for an Oregon dog attack? The answer, unfortunately, is ‘yes.’

As the Yamhill News-Register notes, “All dogs – from the most muscular guard type to the fluffiest family pet – may bite if frightened, challenged or overexcited.” The paper’s report is a reminder that Portland, Salem or Eugene dog attacks can happen anywhere, at any time. As the article notes, a valued family pet can, believing it is protecting its turf or its owners, attack a family friend or anyone else who enters its familiar areas unexpectedly. The source for the article is a newly-published brochure from Yamhill Dog Control, detailing warning signs and useful tips for keeping one’s pet(s) under control.

The article notes that Yamhill County alone has recorded 61 Oregon dog bites so far this year – a pace that puts the county ahead of last year’s annual total of 98 and even further ahead of the county’s average annual number of Oregon Dog bites over the last seven years: 82.

A recent horrific dog attack in Southern California should serve as a warning for Oregonians, and a reminder of the importance of keeping pets under control.

According to the Associated Press, police “have arrested the owners of two pit bulls that mauled a 75-year-old woman in a San Diego backyard, forcing the amputation of her leg below the knee.” The agency reports that the animals were later destroyed while the owners, a father and daughter, “could face felony charges of owning dogs that caused serious bodily injury.”

We have all heard stories about pit bulls over the years – the breed has an especially savage reputation – but even by the standards of dog attacks that have taken place here in Oregon and elsewhere around the country the savagery of this one stands out. The case is particularly tragic because, as the AP reports, this is not the first time these two particular dogs got loose and attacked nearby residents. The animals attacked a neighbor last Christmas.

This is not necessarily an honor we will want to advertise here in Portland, but our city made the US Postal Service’s list of top ten cities for dog bites, according to a recent article in USA Today.

Houston was number one on the list with 62 incidents of dogs biting postal employees. Portland, with 35 incidents, came in at #10. More worrying, perhaps, is a related fact. Despite all of the popular culture focus on dogs and mailmen, postal employees are not the number one category of dog bite victims in Oregon or elsewhere: children are, followed by the elderly.

Dog bite injuries to children are especially worrisome. Mail carriers have professional training in dealing with hostile animals as part of their work. The elderly, at least, know how dangerous unsupervised animals can be. Children, however, cannot be counted upon to understand the possible dangers posed by dogs. Make no mistake, those dangers are real. According to USA Today “last year, 33 people died from dog bites” nationwide.

A Central Point boy is hospitalized with dire injuries following an Oregon dog attack late last month, according to an area newspaper and television station. The Columbian reports that the nine year old “was attacked by three large pit bulls at his father’s home in Central Point.” He is reported to be in “fair” condition at the Rogue Valley Medical Center.

The exact circumstances of the attack are unclear from the available media accounts. Area TV station KPTV reports, however, that the animals were captured in the wake of the Oregon dog attack and “will be held in quarantine by animal control officers… to check for rabies and other problems that might have led to the attack.”

Because the incident involves a serious Oregon child injury the authorities are expected to take special care with their investigation. According to KPTV the “pit bulls appeared to have torn off a large chunk of the nine year old boy’s scalp.”

A newly released government study examining hospitalizations resulting from dog bites lays out some attention-grabbing data: between 1993 and 2008 the number of people hospitalized nationwide as a result of dog bites nearly doubled. Reporting the data the New York Times noted that this “increase vastly exceeded population growth, and pet ownership increased only slightly during the same period.” The study was conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services.

As an AHRQ news release notes, those under the age of 5 or over 65 are in the greatest danger for dog bites. The most common form of hospital treatment required is for “skin and underlying tissue infection”, though in a small number of cases much more serious conditions – such as multiple fractures or blood poisoning – can develop following a serious dog attack.

The study notes that around 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and that only a fraction of these incidents require hospitalization. Still, as the study’s author, Dr. Anne Elixhauser, told the Times, referencing the huge increase in injuries serious enough to require hospitalization: “It’s really kind of frightening, and, unfortunately, we’re at a loss to explain it.”

A police report reprinted on the crime blotter page of the Corvallis Gazette-Times tells a story that will be all-too-familiar to victims of Oregon dog attacks: Someone gets bitten while walking through a park, and the dog’s owner tries to brush off the incident.

The good news in this case is that the victim, 52-year-old Doug Whippo, was not seriously injured. According to the police report, as reprinted in the paper, he was attacked in Willamette Park last weekend. The dog bit Whippo on his left tricep, but the police say the bite “did not break his skin or cause any damage to his clothes.”

The bad news comes from the reaction by the dog’s owner, who told police: “the dog had just been playing and was only a puppy.” The police report then dryly notes that this ‘puppy’ weighs 93 pounds. The owner added that “she had instantly grabbed the dog by the collar and apologized.” Obviously grabbing your dog by the collar after it attacks someone is a good thing for owners to do. So is apologizing. On the whole, however, it would be even better if owners paid closer attention to their animals to ensure that they did not wind up in this position in the first place.