Here we go again. Yet another story in the news about an errant owner of one pit bull (this one named Rambo) who terrified, mauled and permanently disfigured a child in Douglas County, Georgia. The sordid details indicate an owner who had been cited on numerous occasions (10 to be exact) for allowing an unleashed Rambo, who had a previous history of an attack, to roam the Douglas County neighborhood at will. Rambo rushed at an eight year old neighborhood child named Dakota Holt, bit him in the face and knocked him to the ground causing catastrophic injuries that necessitated past plastic surgery and eventual reconstructive surgeries. It is estimated that the child will require ten (10) additional surgeries to repair and correct his disfigurement. It has also been reported that Dakota has sustained past, present and possibly future emotional trauma.
The Douglasville City Council previously voted against an ordinance specifically aimed at pit bulls a year ago. The ordinance would have required that owners of pit bulls register their animals and keep them confined or face a fine of $500.00. Apparently, dog owners and the Humane Society battled against the ordinance as it singled out specific dog breeds on the basis of previous attacks. The irony of the incredulous position of the Humane Society is not lost upon me.
I think Douglas County and the State of Georgia need to progressively push the envelope on the issue of protecting Georgia citizens from dangerous dog breeds. I have seen owners of pit bulls in and around Greater Atlanta walking their trophy dogs. I don’t think some of these owners would be deterred by a fine of $500. The proposed Douglas County ordinance lacked teeth. A toothless lion is still a toothless lion.
So here is a proposal. Enact legislation that is either county specific or state wide that would require owners of dangerous breeds to purchase a policy of insurance that insures the owner for the conduct of the animal. The requirement to acquire such insurance would apply irrespective of whether the owner owned a home or rented an apartment. Failure to adhere to said law would result in mandatory community service, a fine over several thousand dollars and jail time for repeat offenders. Not only would the insurance industry be happy with a new source of revenue but the public at large would be ensured that man’s best friend does not morph into man’s worst enemy in terms of unfunded medical liabilities arising from such attacks.
Rambo’s owner was uninsured at the time of the attack as he was a renter and was not required to purchase renter’s insurance. Generally speaking, the owner of the property who rented to Rambo’s dad cannot be held liable for Rambo’s attacks. Dakota is left with permanent scarring, a drooping eyelid and the prospect of future surgeries that his family cannot afford. Meanwhile, Rambo and his owner have moved from Dakota’s neighborhood. The $700,000.00 judgment awarded by a courageous Douglas County judge against Rambo’s owner will in all likelihood probably never get paid. Typically, renter’s insurance or my proposed insurance requirement would have paid all or a portion of the judgment.
If Dakota can’t afford his medical treatment and the owner of Rambo cannot afford the $700,000.00 judgment, then who is left holding the bag? Answer: the taxpayers, the hospital, the doctors, and the citizens of Douglas County, Georgia. The medical bills will likely be written off or adjusted to some degree. Yet, there will still need to be an accounting for such loss. Anesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses and medical supplies cost somebody something down the line. This conclusion is not fair to anyone except maybe the owner of Rambo who may be looking for a neighborhood near you.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting dog bite cases throughout Georgia. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a dog bite attack, then please contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a free consultation.