The number of claims resulting from dog bites was 18,122 in 2016 and rose to 18,522 in 2017. The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports dog-related injuries made up approximately 30% of homeowner’s insurance claims in 2017–totaling roughly $700 million. Kristin Palmer, of III, says the average cost per claim has also risen, which indicates that the injuries are increasing in severity. She was referring to data showing the average cost per claim rose 90% between 2003 and 2017. Civil awards, judgments, and settlements relating to dog attacks have also risen significantly.
Smith v. Rorie
The recent case of Rorie v. Smith originated after a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a pit bull and incurred significant facial injuries that left permanent scarring. The local laws required that dogs be leashed or maintained in an enclosure and stipulate that dog owners are liable for any injuries they cause. The jury found both the dog owner and the property landlord liable for the attack and awarded $500,000 in compensation for the plaintiff.
Maryland Dog Attack
Robin Conway, a 64-year-old woman from Columbia, was found dead in her backyard after being attacked by her recently adopted a pit bull. Conway was described as an avid animal lover. A concerned relative went to Conway’s home and found her dead after she had been unable to be contacted.
An article by Animals 24-7 reported that State Farm Insurance, which is among the largest insurers in the U.S., is one of the few companies that does insure those with aggressive breeds of dogs. In 2017, they paid $132 million in claims that resulted from dog attacks. The company has reportedly paid over $1 billion in such claims dating back to 2008.
New Virginia Law
A new law in Virginia is addressing dangerous pets. The legislation (§ 3.2-6509.1) requires that anyone taking a dog or cat into physical custody such as animal control agents, law-enforcement or humane agencies document any details regarding the animal biting any person or other animals. The state hopes to create records that will be disclosed to any party who later adopts or takes in the animal. Any party that fails to adhere to the documentation requirements may face a Class 3 misdemeanor charge.
Baltimore City Code
The city of Baltimore’s Health Code outlines their related provisions as follows:
- Dangerous Animal:
- Has attacked a human or animal without being provoked
- Demonstrates dangerous conduct and is not properly restrained or enclosed
- It is suspected or known to have been exposed to rabies
- An animal that needs to remain restrained or enclosed for the interests of public safety
- Vicious Animal:
- Has attacked a human or other animals
- Been previously classified as dangerous by the Health Commissioner’s office and has since attacked again
- Following the subsequent attack, the animal must be euthanized for the interests of public safety
- Injured party was willfully trespassing on the owner’s property at the time of attack
- Injured party was abusing, assaulting or harassing the animal at the time of attack (or in the past)
- Injured party was committing (or attempting) a crime at the time of attack
The state holds dog owners strictly liable for injuries. Owners are responsible for any injuries or damages caused by their dog. When a dog demonstrates vicious behavior, it is assumed that the owner was aware of their dog’s potential for such behavior. Liability does not apply when the injured party was trespassing, harassing or abusing the animal, or conducting criminal activity.