Liability for vet bills due to pit bull attack on my yorkshire terrier?
(West Palm Beach, FL)
I was walking my one-year-old, 5 lb yorkshire terrier on a leash in a shopping mall when an unleashed 60 lb pit bull running free attacked my dog. Vet bills to re-build my dog's broken jaw and 25 stitches across its back, and a 5-day hospital stay came to over $4,000.
I was also bitten by the pit bull when trying to save my dog. Minor Urgent Care took care of me.
The pit bull was impounded and quarantined for 11 days by local animal control. The owner of the pit bull has no insurance. He lives in his father-in-law's home, not far from where the attack occurred, which has a fenced-in yard with a "beware of dog" sign posted. The pit bull must have escaped the fence and ran free.
I plan to seek payment from the dog's owner who has no insurance and claims he has no money.
My question is: Since the dog is domiciled at the father-in-law's home (with the fence), can I go after the father-in-law, who may have homeowners insurance and/or sufficient assets and/or income from his job (I found out) at a small but successful local construction firm? Do I have any other options? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Liability for vet bills due to pit bull attack on my yorkshire terrier?":
Myra (West Palm Beach, FL):
You have an excellent point. Because the pit bull was housed at the father-in-law's home, the animal may be covered under his homeowners insurance. Moreover, if the father exercised control over the dog, by feeding it, caring for it, and otherwise monitoring its behavior, including keeping the dog within his property, the father may have some liability as well.
Certainly the dog owner is directly and unquestionably liable for the injuries to your dog and resulting costs.
Contact the dog owner and the homeowner. Ask them to compensate you for your dog's vet bills, your out-of-pocket expenses (for the dog's medications, your costs of travel to and from treatment, and even your lost wages if you had to miss work to care for your dog).
You are not entitled to compensation for your emotionl distress or mental anguish, nor are you legally entitled to compensation for your dog's pain and suffering. If they refuse to accomodate you, you can file a small claims court lawsuit against them.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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