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Can a dog be a criminal?

An elderly Coalinga woman was attacked last month by a pit bull. It was an ugly attack, in which the dog bit several of her fingers off, and also caused tearing injuries to her arms. After the attack, the dog returned to the scene and had to destroyed by police.

In the wake of that attack we saw an interesting comment by a dog-lover on television.

In defense of dogs

"I don't know why the law comes down so hard on dogs," the woman said. "Very, very few dogs attack humans. If you saw my three pit bulls, you would see immediately how sweet-natured they are. Attacking people is unthinkable to them. Dogs do so much for people, giving us love and loyalty. But every time a dog does a bad thing, it makes the nightly news. Why don't you pick on other animals besides dogs?"

We understand her point of view, and we agree that some breeds are unfairly held in suspicion. Most pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinscherrs are wonderful, loving pets. Much aggressive behavior, in the case of guard dogs, is taught and trained.

Dogs are anatomically equipped to cause injury

At the same time, dogs can do a lot of damage. Terrible injuries have been inflicted to kids and the elderly even by small dogs. These victims are entitled under our laws to expect compensation by the owners of these dogs.

Sadly, dogs were not included in the Bill of Rights. They are considered under the law as property of their owners, and so owners are held liable for any harm the animals cause.

Do other animals attack people? Certainly. Cats scratch and bite, and suits are sometimes filed against their owners. Horses at riding stables step on riders and kick. Animals in the wild do violent things. But if a puma comes down from the mountains and attacks you, you don't have much legal recourse.

With dogs, there is a clear line of responsibility. In California, this line is clear. The owner of the dog is responsible for controlling the animal. If the animal gets loose, it is still the owner's responsibility.

In our opinion, a dog who attacks a person is still innocent. They are responding to their own inner prompts, which only the can understand.

As a personal injury law firm that files claims against dog owners whose pets get out of control, we are sensitive that people love their pets. We can only imagine the chagrin an owner feels when a dog who is a good citizen, who follows the rules 99.99 percent of the time, has a bad moment and causes an injury.

The law is the law

But the law is the law. When one person's negligence - no controlling their dog - results in harm to another person, compensation is in order.

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