Aug 12

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Dog Bites & Idaho Law

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Some kids love dogs and some are scared of them.  As a lawyer I have seen many dog bite cases involving kids.  Helping  a child avoid a bite incident is the best thing, but animal owners can be held responsible for their negligence in how they keep and control a dog when it causes injury to a person,.  An owner owes a duty of ordinary care to maintain their dogs within the standards of the law.  Idaho law (Code section 25-2805(2)) defines a vicious animal as “[a]ny animal which bites, inflicts injury, assaults or otherwise attacks a human being.”   The law requires any vicious animal to be contained in an enclosure.  The Idaho Supreme Court has long rejected the old common law rule that provided a vicious animal could attack without consequence to an owner.  The Idaho Supreme Court has long ruled there is a “familiar but fallacious saying in negligence law that every dog gets one free bite before its owner can be held to be negligent for failing to control the dog.”  However, in Idaho, such a right “is refused to a dog’s owner.  Thus, an owner can be held liable for the acts of the dog even if its the first time the dog has bitten someone.  Nonetheless, making sure your child minimizes the chance of being injured is a way to avoid having a lawyer involved in your life.

Preventing Dog Bites

About half of  dog bite victims are children under 12 years of age.  CDC advises to teach children the following basic safety rules around dogs and review regularly:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog and scream.
  • Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

What To Do if a Bite Happens

If it is not prevented, a dog bite or dog attack can be a terrifying, traumatic event. A number each year result in serious and permanent injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control 4.5 million people a year are bitten by dogs and nearly a million need medical attention.   Many of them are bitten on the face.  While certain breeds of dog are far more likely to attack and bite humans, even when unprovoked, any dog can bite.  If you or a loved one have been attacked and bitten by a dog, the first step is to locate the dog owner and find out if the animal has a current rabies vaccine. Then, an investigation should be made into whether the dog owner or handler was negligent. Was the attack provoked? Was the dog unrestrained and off its owners property? Did the dog have a history of attacking humans or other animals? What steps did the owner or handler take to prevent an attack?

If the dog’s owner is identified, and he or she is shown to have been negligent, dog bite victims may recover for damges such as:

  • Medical treatment such as first aid, emergency care, surgery, hospitalization and ongoing care.
  • Future medical treatment for scar reduction.
  • Psychological counseling to overcome the emotional trauma of the attack.
  • Loss of earnings from work
  • physical pain and suffering,
  • and any disability or disfigurement resulting from the attack.

Things to do in case of a dog bite:

  • Try to identify the dog and its owner. In the rare event that the dog has rabies, it’s important to receive the appropriate vaccines.
  • Seek medical attention. Dog bites can involve puncture wounds from fangs. They can easily become infected.  Often the doctor will refrain from closing the wound to make sure any infection gets out.   Infection can occur even with scrapes and abrasions. An infected wound can result in a worse scar, and may cause serious complications. If you delay treatment, it may not be possible to suture your wounds, which can increase the severity of scarring and complicate your recovery.
  • Report the incident to the police and the animal control officer, and request a copy of the police report for your records.
  • Don’t argue with the dog owner. Many dog owners simply won’t believe that their dog would bite.
  • Don’t sign papers or give recorded statements to the dog owner’s insurance company. The same things that apply to recorded statements after an auto crash apply to statements after a dog bite.  It is possible that the dog owner, property owner, or their insurance company will try to get you to make a statement, in writing or on tape, about what happened. Politely decline. (After all, are they offering to let you take a recorded statement from the dog owner?) Remember that the goal of the owner’s insurance company is to avoid liability for your injuries.  Dont be fooled into thinking the dog owners insurance company has your interests at heart.
  • Don’t agree to a settlement, or sign any settlement papers, without first consulting with an experienced, competent attorney who focuses on injury

If you have questions, call us for a free consultation. We have a combined 40 years experience and help people all over Idaho.

Boise, Idaho · Meridian, Idaho· Kuna, Idaho· Nampa, Idaho· Caldwell, Idaho· Middleton, Idaho· Eagle, Idaho· Payette, Idaho· Weiser, Idaho · Mountain Home, Idaho · Twin Falls, Idaho · Emmett, Idaho · Bruneau, Idaho · Star, Idaho · Greenleaf, Idaho · Wilder, Idaho · Melba, Idaho · McCall, Idaho · Cascade, Idaho · Idaho City, Idaho

Permanent link to this article: http://holzeredwardsinjurylawyers.com/2011/08/dog-bites-idaho-law/


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  1. Angela

    My dog got attacked by another dog, shaking my dog causing not only “external” but, “internal” injuries. I had to put my dog to sleep following this incident. The owner of the other dog fled to Montana, leaving me with sorrow and pain and no justice. Where do I begin?

    1. Kurt Holzer

      I am very sorry to hear of your loss. As Dog Owners John and I understand how devastating such a loss can be. The law in Idaho is not very sympathetic in such a situation. And where the person responsible has run away there is even less you can do. The grief you feel is real, but the law here does not recognize that yet.

  2. Danielle

    In Idaho, is there a statue of limitations for reporting a dog bite to the Humane Society? Should a bite be reported to both the Police as well as the Humane Society?
    Thank You.

    1. Kurt Holzer

      The short answer is report any dog bite. The easiest way to do it is to call the police first and let them guide you.

  3. to_someday@hotmail.com

    If a dog bites a person in Idaho and a report is filed, if the owner and dog later move to a different state, does the record follow them? Is it something the owner needs to report to the new state authorities where they are living or will the Idaho authorities automatically report it to the other state’s authorities? Or does the report just stay on public file in Idaho and that’s it?

    1. Kurt Holzer

      The report will stay public in Idaho. Absent unusual circumstances it is unlikely that anything else would happen

    2. Kurt Holzer

      The report will stay public in Idaho. Absent unusual circumstances it is unlikely that anything else would happen.

  4. Shawn

    If a dog has been at large often and recently and acts “viscous” but has never done no harm but an alleged “victim” had reported an attack; does that give the sheriff and animal control the right to go and confiscate the animal, label him a viscous dog and have the owners follow through with all the precautions to get the dog back legal? There was just accusations made torward the animal and no one legal our personal had seen the alleged victim, but that was supposedly enough to take the 11 month old boxer that a playful and excited nature and also was raised around 6 kids ages 4-15

    1. Kurt Holzer

      The answer is likely yes but your local ordinances will control

  5. Christophersons

    If a neighbors 2 pit bulls dig under and break down a fence and attack,try to break into a sliding glass window to get your cat and children while the other is attacking the chicken coop with your spouse inside trying to keep them out and one gets shot with a BB gun to stop them from attacking you and your animals do you feel they should be charged with animal crualty for defending themselves?

    1. Kurt Holzer

      Assuming those are the facts there certainly is a reasonable defense to any charge that might be brought

  6. jamie

    I was attacked my a dog while at work delivering a package. Bitten 5 times whole the owner was present and trying to get her dog away from me with no success. There was no fence. No sign. No collar on her dog. No specail labeling on the package. I found out today that there wasn’t even a ticket issued to her because the dog didn’t leave her property. I have stitches in 3 places and 2 other wounds that are unstichable. Have no idea what to do now. I am covered a little by workmans comp. But still can’t return to work. What steps should I take now?

    1. Kurt Holzer

      You should contact a personal injury lawyer in your area. There are a number of issues that need to be investigated before anyone can say for sure, but you could well have a valid claim for damages. If you are in Southwest Idaho, contact us right away.

  7. Christy Raup

    My friend’s miniature Schnauzer (about 5 pounds) was being attacked and shaken by a Rottweiler (about 110 pounds) on their property. He shot the Rottweiler, injuring but not killing it. This was also either the 2nd or 3rd time this dog had been on their property attacking their dog, but they didn’t know who it belonged to.

    Long story short, when he discovered who the dog owner was, he explained what had happened, offering to pay half the vet bill, just to try and keep things peaceful. The dog owner originally agreed, but now has filed small claims against my friend for the vet bill.

    Can my friend be held liable for the damages when he was just protecting his own dog?

    Thank you

    1. Kurt Holzer

      On the facts you describe it is likely that he will not be held liable.

  8. Judy

    A women i meet needed a place to park her RV for a few months. So I let her pull it to my property she paid for utillities. She could not go to a Rv camp because she had to many animls with her.
    The day before Easter this year 2014 which nwas a Saturday. She came from her RV holding her arm in the air
    which a bone in her hand.
    I seen her doing this and I thought to myself 1 bone 4 dogs. I precced to go about doing my evening chores.
    Next thing i heard was screaming and for me to come and help.
    I got to where the women was and she had her small dog in her arms and said that Nike, my big dog, took the bone from the little dog. Theere was a tiny bit a blood on the small dogs lip and I ask the women if she had any preoxide she said no. I then went into my house and got some and poured it on the spot. I notice the dogs tooth was loose. I then returned to my house to put away the preoxide and then notice the women leaving my yard in her pick up.
    Now this women wants me to pay over $2,000 for bills over this insident that the women instancated.
    She is suing me
    What do i do??

    1. Kurt Holzer

      call your homeowners insurance company

  9. nikki

    I have a neighbor claiming my dog attacked her cat. The only place my property was not fenced was the opening in the driveway from my house to Jersey which she claimed she was going to put a gate. She has a easement across my property. She thinks I should pay her vet bill am I liable??

    1. Kurt Holzer

      Based on those limited facts it is hard to determine whether legal liability lies. If your dog attacked her cat in her yard the answer is probably yes. If your dog attacked the cat in your yard the answer may well be no. It sounds like tyou may not even believe the neighbors claim.

  10. Cory

    So my situation is this… I have lived in my neighborhood for almost a year and have been renting my home… I just got a new babysitter and the first day she started my dog escaped from the house this had only happened once before but caught her pretty quickly well this time she seen a cat and another dog down the street n ran to them i was not here to see what happened i was at work but my babysitter went and got my dog and took her inside… She went to check on the other dog first attempt she didn’t get a answer she went over there again and was able to speak with the other dog owner and told her she was fine and vet found nothing wrong… Now a few days later there is a scratch they found and took the dog to the vet again and is wanting to serve me with the bill saying its over 3000 dollars… I don’t know what to do or how i should handle this

    1. Kurt Holzer

      That is a difficult situation because you were not witness to events and cant really tell what happened but at the same time are responsible for keeping your dog on your own property. If your dog did cause damage and the other people incurred REASONABLE costs in dealing with the damage then you are likely responsible to pay those costs. Based on what you say $3000 seems a bit high, If you cannot reach an agreement with them then they might just need to take you to small claims court to establish what the reasonable costs are. If you have renters insurance you should call the insurance company and it might help you

  11. Pam Auletta

    Kurt, What legal recourse do I have, if any, if the dog owner has no renters insurance and has not turned over records indicating if the dog had its shots? I was attacked while riding my bike on a county road and filed a case with the local Sheriff Department. They came to the Hospital and took pictures, over twenty stitches and then the Doctor quit counting, this was last Sunday November 15th. The rural county we live in, Boner in N. Idaho has no Animal Control Division! I have medical insurance but do not feel like I should be the one responsible for the medical expense! I’ve been to the hospital twice know as they are monitoring it closely due to the severity of the ankle wound and I’ll need to go back two more times at least assuming it will heal normally. The Doctors concern is great since the location of the wound is in a slow healing area! What do you think with your legal experience? Thank you for your time, Pam Auletta, Hope ID 83836.

    1. Kurt Holzer

      There is no reason not to use your own medical insurance. If you recover from the dog owner it will have the right to be repaid. When people do not voluntarily participate in dealing with a claim your choice is to walk away or to go to court. We recommend you contact a local attorney perhaps Bryce Powell at Powell & reed could be if assistance up there

  12. Hayley

    I took my dog off leash to loosen her collar because it was too tight while on a run on the greenbelt which is a on leash area. She darted away and crashed into a bicyclist. He was taken to the hospital no severe injuries just brusing and scrapes. But now he is asking me to reimburse him and his insurance for the medical bills and also his bike parts. Am i liable for this?

    1. Kurt Holzer

      It is your responsibility to control your dog. Is there some reason a special standard applies to you that allows you to break the law (unleash your dog and lose control of it) and not be personally responsible for your mistake? The law provides people are responsible for their actions and failures. Based on your description, if a cyclist came to us with a description of those facts we would represent them in a claim against the dog owner and fully expect to recover all the damages the cyclist incurred. If you have homeowners insurance and some renters insurance it would pay for the cost you imposed on the cyclist by your negligent acts.

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