From goldfish to horses, pets are part of the family. Children and adults alike benefit from the love of a family pet. We understand this love. However, our Panama City dog bite lawyer also understands that pets are animals, and sometimes they attack. Florida law protects dog bite victims, and our firm helps victims recover monetary damages following an attack.
According to The News Herald, a dog attack left a young boy in critical condition on Tuesday. The attack occurred in front of a Kelly Court home in Callaway as the 7-year-old rode his bike after school. A witness reported hearing a child screaming for help and seeing a boy trying to flee as two dogs chased him down the street, although he could not be sure it was the same child who was attacked. Another witness said that neighbors administered chest compressions to the boy following the attack and that his breathing and heart had stopped for a brief time. Lt. Michael Branning of the Bay County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the child, whose name has not been released, sustained severe bite wounds. The victim was initially taken to Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health System and later transferred by plane to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola.
Bay County Animal Control took custody of two bulldogs following the attack, although it is not currently clear if one or both animals participated in the attack. The owner's name was not released, but neighbors report the dogs have been the source of problems before. Adolph William, who lives next door to the dogs' owner, said the animals have terrorized the neighborhood and have come after both him and his daughter. He adds that he owns a 3-year-old pit bull and keeps the animal inside if the neighbor's dogs are outside.
Another neighbor, Stanlee Himebaugh, said he has seen the animals chasing children down the street. Himebaugh added that he called Animal Control the prior week and nearly shot the animals with a rifle when they threatened his grandfather. The neighbors said they did not believe breed was the issue and reported the animals had not been raised well. According to the owner's statements to investigators, the dogs weigh between 60 and 70 pounds each.
Section 767.04 of the Florida Statutes imposes strict liability on owners when dogs bite, regardless of whether the dog has a history of viciousness. This means the victim does not need to show the owner was negligent or had reason to suspect the animal might attack. The statute does reduce liability if the victim's own negligence played a role in the attack (i.e. if the person taunted the animal).
Importantly, courts have found children under age 6 are incapable of committing such acts of contributory negligence. The dog bite statute also provides that, absent extenuating circumstances (i.e. ordering the animal to attack), an owner will not be held liable to a victim over age 6 if there is a prominently displayed sign including the words "Bad Dog" on the premises.
Dogs are part of the family and, in turn, the family is responsible for the dog. Responsible "pet parents" can prevent attacks by properly training and socializing their animals while keeping the animals leashed in public. Attorney Pittman has represented both children and adults injured by animal bites, including victims who suffered disfigurement. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite in Panama City, please call to arrange a free consultation.