There are roughly 80 million dogs in US homes as family pets and every 40 seconds someone in the US seeks medical attention for a dog bite. In this comprehensive discussion, Claudine Wilkins addresses critical aspects of handling dog bite cases shedding light on the nuanced nature of dog bite litigation and related considerations.
Claudine Wilkins is a former prosecutor before shifting to become a personal injury trial attorney. She specializes in personal injury cases including expertise in dog bite injury law. She founded the Animal Law Source and the Animal Protection and Wellness Expo in Georgia and wrote the Dangerous Dog Law for the state.
Specifics of her presentation covered:
- The two victims in dog bite cases – the person or animal injured, and the attacking dog itself.
- How dog bite cases are preventable through responsible pet owners and ways to manage dog bite cases through knowledge of the law and proper investigation and prosecution.
- The different reasons why dogs may bite and myths related to dog bites.
- The prevalence of dog bites and how COVID contributed to an uptick in incidents.
- The types of injuries dogs may inflict and case examples to illustrate each of these.
- Who are most commonly bit by dogs, the circumstances that lead to dog bites, the importance of understanding the history of a biting dog, and dog bite resources to look into.
- Factors to take into account during the investigative process as it relates to enforcement, charging, involved individuals, prosecution, restitution, and repeat offense, among others.
- Considerations on determining who’ll investigate and try the case, establishing ownership, and who is accountable.
- The importance of utilizing the Ian Dunbar Scale to have a defined uniform guardrail on the extent of the injury.
- Leveraging photos and videos to document victim injuries, the attacking dog, its enclosure, and any surveillance footage available that can be used as evidence and support a case.
- A rundown of the various documents to seek to support a dog bite case, particularly an open records request on the dog owner – dogs they own/ed and the complaints filed against them.
- Things to remember on the scene as it involves:
- Handling dangerous dogs and the potential for zoonotic diseases.
- Potential cruelty or neglect which may have contributed to the dog’s aggressiveness.
- Physical conditions of the environment that allowed the dog to attack.
- Conducting a forensic dog bite exam.
- Other considerations to be mindful of when proving the case as it relates to:
- Writing clear, accurate, specific, and comprehensive reports.
- Proving the case by working the case backwards and looking at the law and its elements.
- What should be included in the case file.
- Bond conditions and protective orders to put into effect.
- Ensuring to get in touch with everyone involved in the case and subpoena witnesses.
- Other violations that can be charged on top of the dog bite case.
- Encompassing all the forms of injuries that the victim is suffering from.
- Sentencing and common defense tactics.
- The evidence to show and who tells the story to the trier of fact.
- Questions from the audience about defining provocation and whether homeowner’s insurance covers dog bites.
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: APAW Flyer
- Handout: Dog Bite Worksheet
- Handout: Bite Scale
- Handout: Euthanasia Order Example
- Handout: Prosecutors and Investigators Checklist for Dangerous Dogs
- Handout: Georgia Responsible Dog Owner Law
- Handout: Responsible Dog Owner Law (Full Text)
- Handout: Tools for Animal Investigations or Executing Search Warrants
- Resource Mentioned: Municode
- “Information to add to a report as well as the possibility of charging an owner for animal cruelty if their animal injures another person’s animal.” — Shanie
- “Great presentation on ensuring adequate investigation and accountability to the owner and victims of dog attacks. This information is a must to be an effective law enforcement officer.” — Travis
- “Great to learn new topics and helpful resources.” — Cha
- “New ways of thinking of types of charges and also how to possibly incorporate into the case.” — Moani
- “I am an expert witness/consultant and this was useful when discussing cases with an attorney or an ACO.” — Nancy
- “Taking time to investigate a dog bite is more important than I have been led to believe. I will be asking a lot more questions from this date forward. Thank you.” — Kenneth
- “I learned many things! VERY helpful and informative! Thank you!” — Kim
- “I liked having a lawyer’s perspective on cases as an Officer. A lot of people are intimidated to cite multiple people for one incident, and being encouraged to do so is needed.” — Kayley
- “I really like the insight given regarding possibly charging owners for reckless conduct/cruelty in bite cases, this is not something that I would have thought of as an option.” — Allison
- “Greatly appreciated the legal information for trial.” — Autumn
This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.