Articles Posted in Dog Attacks

Many people think Oregon follows a “one bite” free rule before imposing owner liability in a dog attack case. That’s untrue; Oregon law generally holds dog owners strictly liable for attack injuries if the dog(s) had aggressive tendencies or a history of violence. That may mean a history of aggressive actions (like launching or attempted attacks.) Strict liability also can apply if the dog’s breed is one “that is known to be aggressive or dangerous.” Even if the dog wasn’t an aggressive breed and even if the dog lacked a history of violence, you still can hold the owner accountable if the owner failed to reasonably control his/her dog. After you’ve endured major injuries in an animal bite case, be sure to consult a knowledgeable Oregon lawyer who is experienced in dog attack matters to discuss your legal rights and options.

Northeast Portland was the site of one such dog attack in December. There, two Great Dane-Mastiff mix dogs mauled a 6-year-old boy to death inside the dog owner’s home.

In this local case, the dog owner was also the homeowner. However, in many cases, the dogs that attack belong to renters. That was the circumstance in a recent California case where two pit bulls attacked a woman in Los Angeles County. A state court of appeal said that, under California law, a dog attack victim can hold a landlord liable if the victim proves that the landlord had “actual knowledge of the tenacious dog’s vicious nature.”

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According to a recent article published on the website of Bend, Oregon TV station KTVZ our country is home to almost 90 million dogs, and “every year, more than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that need medical attention.”

Those are pretty extraordinary numbers. Closer to home “insurers in Oregon paid $5.1 million to settle 184 dog bite claims in 2018.” Those numbers do not put our state in the top ten nationwide, according to a recent analysis published by the Insurance Information Institute (III), but they are still significant for a state our size. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the article notes that senior citizens and children are the people most often injured in dog bite incidents.

There is, in fact, an entire chapter of Oregon law (ORS 609) concerning dogs. ORS 609.115 deals specifically with liability issues surrounding “potentially dangerous” animals and ORS 609.098 lays out the liability issues surrounding “dangerous dogs.”

A lengthy article published last week in the St. Helens Chronicle details a disturbing case of alleged prison abuse. According to the newspaper “a former inmate has requested a jury trial, seeking $500,000 for damages after an encounter with a K-9 while imprisoned in Columbia County jail this year.”

The case was filed in federal court earlier this month. Like other cases of prison abuse that I have written about in recent months it is a civil action built around 42 United States Code 1983. This statute requires state and local governments to enforce the rights that inmates and others are guaranteed under the eighth amendment to the US Constitution. 42 USC 1983 says that all people are entitled to “any rights privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” and that state and local governments must acknowledge and enforce these rights. As The Chronicle notes, this interpretation of the statute was upheld in a 1978 US Supreme Court Ruling (Monell v New York City Department of Social Services 436 US 658).

The St Helens case alleges that deputies at the county jail ordered a police dog to attack a prisoner in his cell, claiming falsely that the inmate was violent and uncooperative when, in fact, he had merely insulted a guard. According to the suit “the county and its officials… failed to provide adequate training to sheriff’s deputies with respect to constitutional limits on the use of force, detention, mental health, and inmate cell extractions and failed to adequately discipline or retrain officers involved in misconduct,” the newspaper reports. It also alleges that the deputies conspired to cover up their actions by filing false reports.

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, 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.

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