New Pit Bull Law Proposed in Rhode Island

February 11, 2013
By Joseph Lamy on February 11, 2013 7:12 PM | | Comments (0)

A controversial new law proposed in the Rhode Island senate seeks to protect the public from dog bites and other injuries caused by pit bulls. The law is controversial and unique in that it focuses solely on one breed, pit bulls. Breed specific laws are not common but those that do exist in other states tend to focus on pit bulls much like this law does.

Thumbnail image for Pit-Bull.jpgMy office has gained a reputation for handling dog bite cases so I am following this law with great interest. We have helped dozens of victims of dog bites in the past year alone, settling most cases for tens of thousands of dollars and more. Dog bite injuries are very serious for a number of reasons:

  • Dog bite injuries almost always result in a scar ranging in size from small teeth marks to large long scars;
  • Dog bites most often occur to minor children;
  • Animal attacks result in a severe mental trauma that is not common to other types of accidents and injuries.

I applaud this bill for a few reasons and am critical for others. I applaud the law because it seeks greater protections for the public from the dangers of dog bites. According to this law, owners of pit bulls would require registration and insurance as well as posting signs and other notices on their personal property. Pit bulls would have to be kept inside at all times and muzzled in public, in addition to other restrictions. I especially applaud the requirement of insurance for ownership of dangerous dog breeds. It is terribly irresponsible to harbor a dangerous animal and lack the required insurance to protect someone injured. Of course, I firmly believe, most dangerous animals are that way because they are owned and raised by immature and irresponsible owners.... but that is the story for another day.

I am critical of the law because I see no reason to single out a particular breed. While statistically pit bulls might cause a higher number of dog bites than other breeds, the laws should focus on protecting the public from any such attack. This, I believe, can be done by educating the public and owners of dogs, particularly potentially dangerous dogs like pit bulls. I would also open up the liability requirement to owners of any dog. From my experience in the cases that I have handled, small unsuspecting dogs are just as likely to bite a person than a pit bull.

Of course, the law in Rhode Island, gives owners of dogs a free pass for one bite UNLESS the owner knows or should know that the breed is dangerous, such as a pit bull or akita. In other words, a dog owner may not be liable if he or she had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous because a) it has never bitten anyone before, or b) it is not a "dangerous breed." Another way we could enhance the protection of the public from dog bites without singling out pit bulls, is to remove this "free pass" for the first bite from Rhode Island law.

If you or a family member has been the victim of a dog bite, contact my office for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, damages for scarring, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. There is never any fee unless I recover damages for you. Call the firm specializing in dog bite attacks in Rhode Island.

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