Tag Archive for dealing with angry dogs

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The Danger in Dog Day Afternoons

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

   
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 
 

Recently, at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House, JJ Hoffman was telling me a story about her daily encounter with dog a couple of years ago. JJ said every day when she was riding to work she’d meet up with this same woman who was walking her dog unleashed.

Every day the dog took after JJ, which set the woman off who would run yelling behind her dog. It got so bad that JJ had the pepper spray out before she got to the street where she’d meet up with the dog. All that dog wanted, JJ said, was a taste of her calf.

JJ really didn’t want to spray the dog, though spraying the owner was tempting, and, luckily for everybody, JJ never actually had to take action.

Like JJ, I really like dogs. The dogs are doing what their instincts tell them to do: to chase prey. Irresponsible dog owners are another matter. They put the cyclist, the dog, and especially themselves in danger.

Bitten by a Dog

In California, if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is at fault. It doesn’t matter if the dog is leashed or not. It doesn’t matter if the owner knew or didn’t know that the dog had a “vicious nature.” California holds owners to “strict liability.” If you are bitten, the owner is liable for your injuries. There is no “free bite” in California.

Collision with or because of a Dog

When a dog begins chasing a cyclist, most cyclists tend to try to outrun the dog. When that happens, the dog’s brain goes into get-the-fleeing-prey mode, and the race is on.

Whether or not you can really outrun the dog, the real danger is in possibly colliding with the dog or colliding with something else because you lose control of the bike or you hit a pot hole or even getting hit by a motor vehicle when swerving or not being able to stop at a light or an intersection.

If you suffer serious personal injuries or your bike is damaged, again, the dog owner can be held liable. Your bicycle accident attorney should be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Compensation for Dog-related Collisions or Bites

The dog owner may be held negligent for:

  • Ineffective control of the dog.
  • Violation of the leash law and other Animal Control Ordinances.
  • Inadequate supervision or management of the dog.
  • Putting the dog in a condition in which the owner could have seen that the dog could cause injury to somebody.

Individual cities also may have their own animal control ordinances. For instance, one city limits the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at a time and a number of cities consider it a misdemeanor if a dog is tied to a parking meter, sign or bus bench without food or water nearby.

Some cities have ordinances specific to a breed. In Santa Monica a pit bull on public property must be muzzled.

The dog owner may be held responsible for compensating you for:

  • Medical bills from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, therapists, plastic surgeons, and for prescriptions.
  • Future medical bills to remove scars or to repair disfigurements. If the money for medical care is not recovered at this time, your health insurance might not cover any future medical procedures you need later, calling them “cosmetic.”
  • Time you had to take off from work resulting in lost income.
  • Lost future earnings because of disfigurement or disabilities.
  • Emotional counseling.
  • Pain and suffering.

Of course you can only recover compensation for injuries you suffer and care you actually need.

Hesitations to Holding an Owner Liable

One of the major hesitations a cyclist who is bitten by a dog often has in reporting a dog bite is the fear that the dog will be destroyed. A dog that has no history of biting is rarely “put down.”

The court takes into account the severity of the bite and the number of times it has bitten. It may rule that a dog must be muzzled in public or restrained in a particular way, such as kept behind a certain type of fence of a certain height.

Self-Defense

We all have heard that we have the right to defend ourselves against an attack from another person. What few people realize is that the law says you can defend yourself as much as is necessary to foil the attack. Your defense must be proportionate to the attack, and when the danger is past, so is your right to defend yourself.

This is a common law concept, and there is no explicit statement in common law that this also applies in a dog attack. More and more dog owners are counter-suing for compensation when their dog has been injured either intentionally or through someone else’s negligence.

So if you are going to use self defense, be sure that it is proportionate to the attack and that once the attack is over you stop, similar to how you would defend yourself with a human. That is a legally defensible act, though you could still find yourself in a lawsuit with the dog owner.

Personally, I subscribe to the belief that it’s rare to find a bad dog, but bad owners are much too plentiful.

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How to (usually) stop a charging dog in its tracks; Culver City Chamber President offers non-apology

Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I found myself living in Baton Rouge, a couple hours north of New Orleans.

That’s where I bought my first adult bike from the local outlet of what was then the nation’s oldest continuously operated bike shop, thanks to a tax refund courtesy of a conservative president far too liberal for many of today’s conservative voters.

One of my favorite riding routes out into the Louisiana countryside required passing a ramshackle shack with the rusted hulk of a car in the front yard, and a massive Doberman on the front porch. An unleashed Doberman, I might add, who had no love of bike riders passing by on the road in front of his home.

Inevitably, the dog would sprint out of the yard, chasing me down the street snarling and snapping, and striving to bite anything he could get his teeth on.

Including me.

I tried everything I could think of to defuse the situation, from pedaling furiously to outrun his snapping canines to squirting him with my water bottle, and tossing dog treats behind my bike.

At best, I only managed to distract him long enough to sprint away. And he’d be waiting right there on my way back.

That changed the moment I finally remembered a lesson learned growing up in a house full of dogs.

So one day, as the dog was bearing down on me, instead of running away, I pulled up short and stopped in front of him carefully placing my bike between us, just in case. And as he prepared to lunge at me, I shouted out a single word.

“Sit!”

And to my everlasting surprise, he did.

The dog stopped on the spot and sat there in front of me, watching me intently and waiting for my next command.

So I said, as authoritatively as possible, “Go home!”

He did, sadly turning tail and slinking back to his own yard, apparently disappointed that I didn’t want to play anymore.

After that, I didn’t need to get off my bike any more; it was enough to shout “go home” as I rode by. Eventually, the dog didn’t even bother to chase me any more, accepting that it just wasn’t worth the effort.

That’s when it sank in through my sometimes dense brain matter that almost every dog know certain key commands. And they instinctively want to obey, even if they’ve never seen you before.

Since then, I’ve tried the same technique with countless other dogs. And it’s worked almost every time, almost without fail.

Some dogs are just incorrigible.

The key is to issue a command, not a request.

No matter how big or angry the dog may be, try not to show any fear. Then use your best drill sergeant voice to order it to sit or go home.

“Leave it” is also a popular command that works with a number of dogs these days, mine included; for some reason, “stop” doesn’t seem to work at all.

And not everyone can pull it off.

But if you can, it’s the most effective tool I know to stop a dog dead in its tracks.

………

He just doesn’t get it.

Yesterday, I linked to a letter written by Culver City Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rose, in which he criticized Metro’s “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” campaign, trotting out a number of the common fallacies typically employed by bike haters.

Wednesday afternoon, he offered a non-apology, professing to have been misunderstood, and that his comments reflected his personal opinion and did not represent the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

Right.

The problem is, he cites his position to give gravitas to his opinions. But in doing so, he links them to the organization he represents, whether he wants to or not.

If he doesn’t want his comments to reflect on the Chamber, all he has to do is drop the title and identify himself simply as a Culver City businessman.

But the moment he identifies himself as Chamber president, he inevitably links his comments to the Chamber of Commerce, despite any protestations to the contrary. And rightly or wrongly, makes it appear the Chamber shares his opinions.

As for those opinions, he is correct that cyclists are required to obey the same traffic regulations motorists are. The problem comes when he suggests it is up to us to use extra caution when we ride, once again placing responsibility on cyclists for the actions of those we share the roads with.

Because the key to bike safety isn’t obeying the law, using reflectors or wearing helmets. It’s not getting hit by cars.

And we’re only part of that equation.

So I’ll say it again.

Collisions are hard to have. If you drive safely and obey the law, and I ride safely and obey the law, it’s almost impossible to have a collision.

Yes, many riders could show more courtesy to others on the roads. But placing the responsibility for safety on those of us on two wheels is just blaming the victims, and ignores the dangers posed by those who are far more capable of causing serious injury or death.

He may be a responsible driver.

But responsible observer of the situation on our streets is another matter.

When he wants to follow up his letter with one calling on drivers to share the road, pass safely, signal their turns, check their mirrors, obey the speed limit, look for riders before opening doors, and give cyclists the same right-of-way they would any other vehicle, then, and only then, will his comments be worth taking seriously.

And not reflect negatively on the organization he claims to represent, but not speak for.

………

Finally, a 73-year old spree killer faces charges in Mesa AZ.

The woman driver fled the scene after hitting and killing a bike rider, only to blow through a red light and kill another motorist just six minutes later.

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