21 Aug 2014
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Laws Give Victims of Dog Attacks Little Recourse

Most dogs are considered property, and as a result pet owners are limited by what they can seek in damages following an attack.

Laws Give Victims of Dog Attacks Little Recourse

A Newtown resident, who wants to remain anonymous, was leash-walking his dog on a residential street here in town. His small dog was suddenly and viciously attacked by a neighbor’s dog that broke through an electric fence, ran into the street and attacked the small dog, causing serious bodily injury. 

The owner of the small dog watched in horror as his beloved gentle, family pet was mauled.  The dog was not only physically scarred, but permanently traumatized by the experience.  The owner of the injured dog suffered his own significant emotional distress witnessing this vicious assault on what he considers a member of his family.

This scene, unfortunately all too common, was replayed recently in Oxford, with tragic results, when . Although the very large dogs were leashed, they broke away from the handlers and attacked Severson’s much smaller dog. The dog ultimately died from the injuries suffered in this attack.

In Connecticut, .  Although the Connecticut “dog bite” statute clearly places the liability on the owner of the attacking dog, dogs are, under current Connecticut law, considered “personal property,” like a chair, and Severson can only recover the fair market value or replacement value of his property - in this case a rescued dog with little or no market value.   

If Severson had owned a pedigreed show dog valued at $10,000, he would be entitled to recover that amount, but under this statute, his little dog is worthless. This same theory would apply to a claim for injuries suffered by your family's mixed breed pet as a result of veterinary malpractice.

Is this law discriminating against mixed-breeds? Is the loss or injury to a family's cocker spaniel worth more to than the loss or injury to a family's mixed breed?

Moving on to the next issue for Severson - should he be allowed to recover money damages for the emotional distress he suffered witnessing the horrific mauling of his pet?

In Connecticut, there is a cause of action for the emotional distress suffered by a person witnessing injury to a family member. Unfortunately, again, the statute does not allow for recovery if that family member happens to be your dog.

There are a few cases currently making their way through the Connecticut court system attempting to challenge the bystander statute claiming the owner of a pet attacked by a vicious dog feared for his own personal safety.  The outcome remains to be seen on this one.

Now look at your beautiful, loving mixed-breed happily running around your yard with your children. Just because you have no idea what breed(s) he is, because his conformation is not perfect and one ear is floppy, is he worth less to you than your neighbor’s Golden retriever  I think not. 

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