January 20, 2004

Strict liability for vicious dog

From the Rocky Mountain News, pit bull kills neighbor's dog:

The death of a husky at the jaws of a pit bull has left residents shaken and calling for stronger laws against vicious dogs. . .

According to a Broomfield police report, a pit bull named Lucky belonging to Jacob Talamantes went through a fence Jan. 5 and attacked the husky, ripping its chest and abdomen.

"My dog was doing what any natural dog would do. That's his territory and a dog was coming through," Talamantes said. "It was a horrible situation."

But, he said, "It's not anybody's fault really that this happened. Accidents do happen. This is just like you or I going out there and tripping and falling on top of somebody, and they accidently broke their leg. It isn't necessarily our fault."

And that, Mr. Talamantes, is why we ought to impose strict liability on dog owners.

Posted by Carey at January 20, 2004 07:37 AM

Cat owners too. Weird clawed beasties.

Posted by: Heidi at January 20, 2004 09:30 AM

Why is it a good argument for strict liability? We don't impose strict liability on people who fall down on other people. At any rate, the common law does impose strict liability for owners of vicious animals.

Posted by: Mark Ashton at January 20, 2004 02:18 PM

What do you think about the pit bulls running loose, who attacked (and killed) a woman in her barn who had gone out to feed her horses. Colorado currently has the "one bite" rule, whereby owners aren't held liable the first time their pet bites someone, but after the first time, they're supposedly put on notice that the dog (usually, but I spose kitties too)have a "love of biting" and are thereafter liable. In the above case, the "local authorities" have recommended charges be filed against the owners, since someone DIED because of the dogs. We'll see what happens!

Posted by: Nancy at January 28, 2004 07:15 PM

I hate the one-bite rule.

This rule might work if we were talking about lizard bites, or bird bites, or something less dangerous. But biting dogs are sometimes so dangerous that the first bite may be the last, as it was for that woman who got attacked.

That's why I like the idea of strict liability for dog owners: if you choose to have a dog, you're going to be liable whenever your dog bites someone else regardless of whether you knew the dog was dangerous or not. The only way out would be to show that the person who got bit was doing something stupid, like tormenting your dog.

This rule would encourage people to take more precautions concerning their dogs. Since they chose to get the dog, and since they are in the best position to know what kinds of precautions might be effective, the rule would be a fair one. Letting innocent people serve as guinea pigs in an experiment to see if your dog is dangerous (the one-bite rule) is a bad idea.

Posted by: Carey at January 29, 2004 02:55 PM