Dog Bite Law Blog

News and opinion about dog bite law

Bringing a Dog to the Mall – Folly or Fair?

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Carlos Granda, a reporter with KABC-TV (ABC in Los Angeles, CA), called me yesterday. He said people have been writing to his station, complaining about seeing dogs in malls and stores. Would I care to comment, he asked?

That’s like asking the home plate umpire if he would care to say whether the last pitch was a ball or a strike. “Of course,” I told Carlos.

Just an hour before, I walked around a corner at a mall near my house, and what did I almost collide with? A pit bull, sitting on a wall, with a New Year’s Eve party hat on. About 10 feet away, his owner (I assume) was taking photos of him, using a cell phone camera. Although my elbow grazed the dog’s shoulder, the pit just looked at me, far calmer than I was looking at him.

A dog on a wall in a mall. Now, that’s unexpected! Which is why a California court, during the 1950’s, ruled that a store that allows people to bring their dogs can be held liable for any type of accident that the dog causes. In that case, a lady who was shopping either tripped over the dog or got tangled in its leash, but she fell and was badly injured. The court ruled that a store designs its aisles so that people will be looking at merchandise, not checking the floor for pooches and leashes. Consequently, a store can be held liable for negligence if a shopper sustains injury in any encounter with a dog on the premises.

And that’s not all. What about the pee and the poop? What about the shedding? If a customer has an allergy, or is simply afraid of animals, what about that? All things considered, it seems completely unreasonable to allow dogs (and other pets) to come into malls, stores and restaurants. There are only two exceptions: police dogs and service dogs. By law, the latter are allowed everywhere, for a very good reason, namely to assist those people who require help.

Well, the interview ended a few minutes ago. It did not go well. Carlos, his cameraman and I laughed so much that I’m not sure he will be able to use me on the segment. We were laughing at the folly of all this. Not only the pit bull wearing the party hat, but, for example, the ice cream store that gives free ice cream to dogs and little children. What happens when you put an ice cream cone between a dog and a young child who have never met? While the answer (facial injuries for the child, possible euthanasia for the dog) is not funny, the utter stupidity and selfishness of the store is truly laughable.

In my line of work, representing mostly kids who have been bitten on the face by dogs, I have to laugh to keep from crying. I have almost never reviewed a dog attack that was not the fault of the dog owner, whether because the dog was put in the wrong place at the wrong time (a daycare center, a crowded apartment building, on the wall at the mall), or it was not trained or badly cared for, or the owner failed to warn that the dog was injured or sick. Sometimes, however, the fault also stems from another human who is not on the other end of the leash, namely a store manager or a landlord. Essentially, accidents involving dogs are the result of people’s negligence. And sometimes, their sheer folly.


Written by Kenneth Phillips

July 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Posted in News and Opinion

Homicide and Felony Charges After This Weeks’ Two Pit Bull Attacks

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On July 20, 2010, two pit bulls killed 71-year-old Wiliam Parker of Memphis, Tennessee, and injured 4 other people. Sherry Wooten, 23, has been charged with negligent homicide and four counts of felony reckless endangerment for the four others injured by the dogs. (Read the story by The Commercial Appeal.)

On July 22, 2010, Jacob Bisbee, a two-year-old boy, was killed by his step-grandfather’s pit bulls in Concord, California. The dog owner has been arrested on suspicion of child endangerment and owning a mischievous animal that caused great bodily injury or death, both felonies. (Video of this story by NBC.)

These are the 18th and 19th fatal dog attacks in the USA during 2010. Pit bulls have been responsible for most of the deaths. These arrests underscore the fact that pit bull owners are at risk for criminal prosecution when their dogs injure or kill other people.

Written by Kenneth Phillips

July 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Pit Bulls Kill Memphis Man, 71, and California Boy, 2

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On July 20, 2010, two pit bulls in Memphis killed 71-year-old William Parker. Then the dogs attacked two family members and two firemen who tried to save the old man.

Just 48 hours later, a 2-year-old boy (name not released as of this writing) was killed by his parents’ three pit bulls in Concord, California. The death toll by dogs is 19 in the USA so far this year. Pit bulls killed between 11 and 13 of the victims, Rottweilers 4, and Huskys one.

For details about fatalities through June 2010, see Dangerous and Vicious Dogs on, particularly the section entitled “Canine Homicides.” For July 2010’s three deaths so far, see the home page of

Written by Kenneth Phillips

July 23, 2010 at 8:07 am

Posted in Fatal Dog Attacks

Fatal Dog Attack Report, 1st Half of 2010: Parents’ Dogs Are Greatest Risk to Kids

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A young child, the most common victim of a fatal dog attackThis year so far, the most common victim of a fatal dog attack is a child, and her killer is her parents’ pet dog. During the first 6 months of 2010, 11 canine homicide victims were young children. Of these, 9 were killed by the family dog. One was killed by dogs running at large, and the other by chained dogs.

Family dogs killed 14 of the 16 dog bite fatalities from January through June 2010. In addition to the 9 children, there were 5 adult victims who were killed by pets living in the decedent’s home or being kept there for some reason.

Pit bulls were identified as the killers in 9 cases, and as the probable killers in two more. Rottweilers were identified in 4 fatalities. A Siberian Husky was identified in one case, and might have been involved in one other. More details are given at Dog Bite Law: Dangerous and Vicious Dogs (

So what’s the lesson from these grim statistics? Clearly, it is that parents must choose an appropriate dog for the household, as well as train and maintain it adequately. Additionally, kids must be closely supervised around dogs.

Written by Kenneth Phillips

July 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Fatal Dog Attacks

The Shooting Has Started – Control of Dangerous Dogs More Urgent Than Ever

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Housewives have started shooting at the vicious dogs that our animal control agencies (aided by public confusion) have failed to control. In the past month, the news media have reported two such instances. In one, a mother fired a single shot at a pit bull that was mauling her child. In another, a woman shot a pit bull that was killing her dog. (Read the article.)

As the public becomes more fed up at dangerous dogs and their irresponsible owners, and as more people and pets are killed by vicious dogs, we will see more stories like these unless our animal control departments take control of the situation. By far, it is preferable for trained animal control officers to do this job, rather than housewives with guns.

The authorities need to hear a clear message from the public: get rid of the dangerous dogs, the ones that demonstrate viciousness toward people, not by being a member of a breed but by displaying viciousness toward people. That means go find them, take them to the shelter and euthanize them. It does not mean train them, allow them to be adopted, allow them to breed freely. Kill the vicious dogs.

To send this clear message, the public needs to see that the animal control departments have adequate personnel and equipment. Enough officers, enough facilities, enough trucks, enough radios. They are part of law enforcement and they deserve and require the same kind of support. Furthermore, they need to know that we don’t want vicious dogs released, rescued, adopted, re-homed, but killed, not because they are from a breed we might fear but because they have demonstrated viciousness toward people.

We have the right to safe streets. We have the right to defend our lives and our spouses and our children. But when we have to draw our guns to do so, we need to let the authorities know that this is their job, not ours, and that we want them to do it, and will pay what it costs. This means money and clarity of purpose: get the vicious dogs off our streets and kill them, meaning the dogs that have demonstrated violent tendencies against people.

Written by Kenneth Phillips

June 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Dogs Attack Police Car in TN and Are Returned to Owners

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As in the Jennifer Lowe case, here is a video of dogs attacking a police car and “getting away with it.” Quite literally, because first they ripped off the bumper cover, and later were returned to their owner. (Click here to see the video.)

Attorney Wayne Ritchie Jr. and I made Knox County pay for the horrific death of Jennifer Lowe, because the county animal control department failed to impound her killers before they mauled Jennifer to death. In that case, the pack of pit bulls had attacked a police car, attacked police officers, and generally terrorized the neighborhood – much like the dogs in this video.

So if the dogs in this video harm anyone, and Wayne or I get the call, another county will pay for its conscious disregard of its residents’ safety. Is there any other remedy for this? Yes: at the ballot box. Being soft on dangerous dogs is as bad as being soft on any other crime.

Written by Kenneth Phillips

March 26, 2010 at 3:27 am

Posted in News and Opinion

7 Felony Charges and $250,000 Bail for Owners of Vicious Dogs

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Jose Lopez Gonzalez, 49, and Judith Mendez Lopez, 55, face 7 felony counts each, and bail at $250,000 each, as a result of failing to control 5 oftheir dogs. The dogs attacked a family that was walking in the neighborhood. Among other things, 5-year-old Destiny Colon was injured so badly that she was put on a ventilator in the hospital for days and needed more than 230 stitches. (Read more.)

Written by Kenneth Phillips

March 24, 2010 at 1:25 am

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