Potential New Dog Bite Legislation in New Jersey

Animal Attack Against Police Spark Talks of New Laws

Police officers frequently enter property and homes with dogs. But are these police officers, and others who may encounter these dogs, safe from animal attacks? And do they have sufficient legal recourse if they suffer injuries from a dog bite? According to a recent article in the South Jersey Times, a dog attack at the end of December has the Camden County Police Chief wondering if New Jersey needs new criminal laws to address dog bite incidents.

On December 26th, a Camden County police officer responded to a call at a residence, where he subsequently suffered a serious dog bite injury. At the scene, several officers, including the one bitten, had been pursuing suspects in a drug transaction. One of those suspects is presumed to have given his pit bull a “sic ‘em” order, encouraging the pit bull to attack the police officers. Camden police eventually arrested the suspects, and an animal control officer quarantined the dog.

J. Scott Thomson, the Camden County Metro Police Chief, explained that dog attacks create dangerous situations in which an officer, or even a passerby, has “very few options for his or her own safety.” Especially during arrests, Thomson explained, “a pit bull latching onto your leg is far more damaging than the occasional punch from a resisting suspect.”

Right now, a person who orders a dog to attack can be charged with aggravated assault in New Jersey, but Thomson wants dog bites to carry stiffer penalties for owners. After all, as Thomson insisted, “for the most part there aren’t bad dogs, just bad owners.”
How frequently do dog bite injuries occur, and who is typically affected? Is it true that some dog breeds are more dangerous than others?

Dog Bite Injury Statistics in the U.S.:

According to the statistics compiled by the American Humane Association, approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the US.

Do all of these victims sustain severe injuries? Of those bitten, about 800,000 dog attack victims will require medical care. And while we can’t always tell whether a dog might be dangerous, just from its breed or other defining characteristics, the American Humane Association does point out some significant trends:

  • Almost all fatal dog bites involve a male dog (92 percent), and most of these dogs have not been neutered (94 percent);
  • About 25 percent of all fatal attacks occur when the dog is chained;
  • Only about 24 percent of fatal dog bites occur when the dogs are off their owners’ property. As such, you may be at greatest risk of a dog attack when you’re on the property where a dangerous dog resides.
  • Each year, dog bites result in about $1 billion in insurance payments for severe injuries to the arms, legs, hands, feet, and head.

More children suffer dog bite injuries than persons in any other age group, according to the American Humane Association. In fact, about 70 percent of all dog fatalities affected children who were under the age of 10 years old, and most of those children were between the ages of five and nine years old. It’s important to educate your children about the dangers of dog attacks - but it’s even more important to supervise young children around dogs.

Some communities have breed-specific legislation that prevents people from owning certain types of dogs; such as a pit bull, Doberman pinscher, and Rottweiler. However, you should keep in mind that “at least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S.,” according to the American Humane Association. Thus the owner - and not the breed, may carry the most blame.

Dog bite injuries can be very serious and often life-threatening. If you have been attacked by a dog, you should speak to a dog bite lawyer about filing a claim for compensation.

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