dog laws

Brent Finnegan -- April 28th, 2008

I suppose this is a continuation of the comments from last summer’s post about dangerous dogs. There’s a story in the News Virginian about a boy that was mauled by his neighbor’s dog. The attorney in the story says that under Virginia law, every dog gets one free attack, and adds that “Virginia one of the toughest places in America to claim damages from a dog bite.”

I would assume Chopper will be added to the Dangerous Dog Registry in Waynesboro. Currently there are two dogs listed on the registry in Harrisonburg, yet none for Rockingham County.

19 Responses to “dog laws”

  1. Seth says:

    i hate to be callous about this, but this kid approached a dog (who was probably growling/barking well before the boy was within his reach) that was tied up on the owner’s property. it’s kind of crazy to me that our laws say that a dog only gets one bite in this situation. that being said, if a dog gets loose and attacks someone, i don’t necessarily believe the animal or the owner should be let off the hook just because it is the first time the dog has manifested agressive behavior. to me it really comes down to holding people accountable for their actions. someone who doesn’t take the appropriate measures to contain a dangerous animal should be accountable. so too should someone who does something stupid like approaching a snarling, chained up dog (or placing their hand on a hot stove, or climbing in between freight cars), even if they’re only a kid. teach em well.

  2. Justin says:

    I was bit in the back of the head by our neighbors dog when I was a kid (14 stitches and two nice scars). There was no history of violent behavior. We didn’t even think of suing.

    Nature is a bitch.

  3. Seth says:

    oh the days before law suits became such a requisite part of our lives. did anyone else see the mother’s comment about how the owner’s haven’t even contacted her to see how her son is doing? it struck me as strange. i wonder if they’re really so phlegmatic or if perhaps they have been advised by an attorney that an apology could easily be construed as an admission of guilt by some erudite trial lawyer who makes their living capitalizing on the misfortune of others.

  4. JGFitzgerald says:


    Those trial lawyers give two-thirds of their capitalization to the victims. Suits aren’t requisite; they’re an option a lot of people once didn’t realize they had.

  5. Seth says:

    we’re not going to agree that trial lawyers are heroes out to help the little guys (although if you ever want to chat with someone who will, i highly reccomend e-mailing this guy: i appreciate that they do have a legitimate role to play in our society but i think most of us can agree that it has gotten at least a bit out of hand. if my speculation about why the neighbors didn’t apologize to the family of the injured boy is anywhere near the mark (and i do believe that it’s in the realm of reasonable conjecture) then this is a really good example of how lawsuits and the fear of being sued can inhibit compassion and straightforward communication. i hope we can agree on the fact that it would be a much better society if justin were representative of the rule rather than the exception.

  6. JGFitzgerald says:

    No, I think people should control dogs and not let them bite children.

    Lawyers aren’t heroes; they just do a job. So do tight ends. Both pay well.

    Out of hand? Not so much. Judges toss bad suits out all the time. That’s their job.

  7. Seth says:

    i’m not going to get into defending the absurd salaries of professional sports player but if you have too many tight ends, somebody has to play for jon bon jovi.

    if you have too many lawyers, somebody has to take dubious cases where the defendant’s liability can be reasonably questioned. that’s what we’ve got right now.

    not sure what ‘no’ in the first line there means. just for clarification, i never asked ‘do you think the streets of hburg should be rife with the seed of cerberus, devouring any soft bellied moppet who crosses their path?’

    i agree that people should control their dogs.

    i’m more concerned about who will control the greed of the masses when untoward influences encourage them to take whoever they can for whatever they can.

  8. David Miller says:

    All I know is that if someone breaks into my backyard, my dogs will do one of two things. Kill them, (just ask the ghosts of the stray cats that should never have climbed a 6 ft fence) or lick them to death. Not sure which but I’d advise everyone to be more cautious with their dogs and certainly

    This quote from the comments “Clearly in the wrong??? Where do you get THAT?? My son was NOT in the wrong! What the article FAILED to mention is that (1) my son played there in their backyard with thier son for the last 8 months!! He KNEW the family and the dog. (2) My son was SENT into the backyard BY THE OWNER to get a lawnmower!!! He was attacked by this animal WITHOUT provocation!”

  9. Seth says:

    so joe, i have to ask you, do you really think it’s worth a judge and everyone else’s time and trouble for this kind of thing to go to court and get thrown out?

    DULUTH, Minn. — The driver of a 1997 Honda Civic that struck and killed a dog near Cloquet is suing the dog’s owners for damage done to his vehicle.

    Jeffery Ely was driving on the night of Jan. 4 when Fester, a miniature pinscher, squeezed past owner Nikki Munthe as she was letting in her other dog and ran out onto the road. Ely’s car struck Fester, killing the 13-pound dog instantly.

    Now Ely is suing the Munthes for about $1,100 for damage to his car, time he had to take off from his two jobs to get the car repaired, and court fees.

    Pieces of the bumper were propelled into the radiator when it hit the dog, Ely said, necessitating a replacement. Ely maintains he didn’t have problems driving until after the accident and that the radiator issues were not pre-existing.

    Ely said he feels sorry for the Munthes’ loss but, as a dog owner himself, feels that they must be responsible for their pets’ actions.

    “I have complete compassion for them,” Ely said. “I know how it feels. I love dogs. But once you get them, they are your responsibility.”

    “We would have never let him off-leash because we’re so terrified of this road,” she said.

    The case will be heard in St. Louis County Court on Friday.

    Munthe said she has always been worried about the busy road the family lives on.

    The Munthes have filed a $2,400 countersuit against Ely for the cost to buy Fester, the time they had to take off work for court appearances, and the cost of buying a dog to replace Fester.

  10. David Troyer says:

    I thought it was fairly commonplace for dog owners to pay for damage to cars if their dog was hit. Is this not the case?

  11. JGFitzgerald says:

    You can eliminate civil suits and then nobody can file bad ones. Then again, you can eliminate the First Amendment and not have to, or be able to, respond to specious arguments.

    Rephrased, a suit over a dog in Duluth is none of my business. If somebody passes a law to limit the right to sue, that is.

  12. Seth says:

    fair enough. i don’t see common sense tort reform as laws that would limit the right to sue (what number is that in our bill of rights again?) though.

    i’m all for aggrieved parties being reasonably compensated.

    david, it may be, i don’t know (although i’d like to see somebody try it when it’s a child running out in the street instead of a mini pin). my common sense tells me that if a 13 lb dog does significant damage when you impact it with your car, you’re probably driving too fast.

  13. Bryan says:

    I’m interested to know how you guys feel about the “loser pays” system employed by our limey friends across the pond.

  14. JGFitzgerald says:

    10th amendment. If the constitution doesn’t take a right away from you, you still have it. As to “loser pays,” a judge can sanction an attorney filing a frivolous suit now. And I would hope legislators would think twice about voting for a “Common Sense Tort Reform” if it were renamed the “Insurance Company Protection Act.”

  15. Seth says:

    thanks joe. it’s true that the insurance lobbies would likely be some of the big players in any tort reform and while it would be important to limit/monitor their influence, i don’t see how their potential involvement negates the fact that our current system could be improved.

  16. Seth says:

    i don’t mean to question your understanding of the 10th amendment, but i think you’d agree that your characterization takes some liberties. the constitution doesn’t ‘take rights away’ from anyone (which is why hamilton opposed the bill of rights when it was drafted). while i’m not an expert on the applications of the 10th, my understanding is that it deals with limiting the power of the federal government in favor of allowing states to maintain responsibilities not specifically granted to the feds in the constitution. again i’m no expert, and so i may be unaware of instances where the 10th was used in relation to individuals. at any rate, you’re correct that individuals are legally entitled to sue, but to say that they have a ‘right’ is a misapplication of the term.

  17. JGFitzgerald says:

    This exchange is bordering on hair-splitting. Are you arguing that seeking civil redress is a privilege granted by the government, and not a right? And if it is not a right, or if it can be limited, what specific wrong is “tort reform” meant to address? That is, what societally harmful event or situation is it meant to prevent? Or are you simply saying that “right” is the wrong word because people shouldn’t do it?

    I’m all for tort reform if it means insurance companies are prohibited from defending any case worth less than $10,000. After all, they don’t have a “right” to defend those cases.

  18. Brian M says:

    I’ll have to say, Seth and Joe, this has been the most civil argument I have seen in some time between two people of rather different point of views. Thanks for the refreshing civility.

  19. seth says:

    nicely played. i appreciate your adept paranomasia. i don’t mean to argue, only to advocate for a better way. i can see where my attempt to distinguish between a ‘right’ and a legal ability to do something may seem like minutia. however i’m compelled to make the distinction because in my mind (and in use) the word ‘right’ invokes those of the inalienable variety. by talking about a ‘right to sue’ (or a ‘right to privacy’) you frame the issue as something that is inherent in our being. good strategy, but i don’t buy it.

    as to specific wrongs which tort reform could right, i think we just need to do something to encourage/oblige people to be reasonable. i don’t advocate making it impossible to file rational suits, but societal harm is done by the irresponsible and avaricious way in which the current sometimes functions. health care is a good example. while no reasonable person would tell you that the united states can definitely achieve a 0% infant mortality rate, i would venture to guess that something like 7 or 8 in 10 bad outcomes sue the ob. sometimes the suits are justified (in which case the plaintiff has every right to be compensated), sometimes not. our system is so screwed up that these things rarely make it to court. instead insurance companies do a cost/benefit analysis and generally settle. whether or not the doctor was at fault tends to be irrelevant. malpractice insurance is going up every year. just like health insurance. i wouldn’t try to establish direct corrolation but i wouldn’t write it off as merely coincindental either.

    i’m all for tort reform if it means we can make things better. i think we can.

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