Visitor Question

Liability for vet bills due to pit bull attack on my yorkshire terrier?

Submitted By: Myra (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.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Myra,

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 a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 23, 2014

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2 thoughts on “Liability for vet bills due to pit bull attack on my yorkshire terrier?

  1. While setting up our campsite my 8 lb Yorkie was on a leash tied to the table. The dog from the next site over, a pit bull, was on a long rope.

    At some point he ventured over onto our camp site and attacked my little dog, ultimately resulting in us having to put the dog down as his injuries were too great.

    The campground rules that I signed stated that “small well behaved pets” were allowed. This dog was 80+ lbs.

    I am left with a dead dog, over $3k in vet bills and the dog owner is not paying. The owner of the campground called his insurance company to report the incident, however states he is not responsible. This is in the state of MA.

    I need to recover the money I have to pay out for a dead dog….

  2. I was walking my dog on a sidewalk near my home in Brooklyn. Out of nowhere charged an off leash pit bull, no collar, no leash dragging. This dog lives across the street. He was not on the street when I came down the road.

    My dog alerted me to him coming, he charged up in silence. I was able to start spraying him with pepper spray before he made contact with my dog. It took the owner four tries to pull him off my dog. The owner went back in his home without a word to me.

    The physical damage done to my dog was minimal, but he is now very fearful and is on medication. It’s going to take a lot of therapy training to try to make him comfortable in the world again.

    We may have to move because everything is scaring him, he doesn’t like to leave the house.

    Aside from the vet bills, I’m wondering if I can go to the owner with all the cost of the training and any other therapies (acupuncture, etc.) that may be needed to address his mental health.

    This attack has changed his life and mine.

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