Last week a toddler was viciously mauled by a pit bull in Bronx while her mother looked on in terror. The two were walking down the street when the large dog raced across the roadway and latched onto the toddler's arm. The traumatizing attack was caught on CCTV and the little girl's nightmare was broadcast across the Internet. When the dog's owners finally arrived after the fact, they were cited by police for not having the dog on a leash but were allowed to keep the dog and avoided any further prosecution.
This case illustrates several gray areas in New York City's dog laws. While owners are required to keep the animals on a leash while in public, penalties for failure to do so often don't match the severity of the incidents which arise because of their lack of control. And what's worse, those leash laws don't cover dog owners inside apartment buildings or other so-called "private" areas.
While dog bites are a huge problem nationwide, the proximity of people to dogs in New York City means the issue is a critical one in the City. According to NYC official statistics, there were over 4,000 dog attacks recorded in New York City last year. Most were fairly minor instances involving dog bites but several were similar to the horrific mauling of the Bronx toddler mentioned above. Children are at the greatest risk of being attacked - between 5 and 12 years old. Children are also at the highest risk of being seriously injured in dog bite attacks because they're so small and cannot defend themselves.
It is the dog owner's responsibility to keep their animal in check and keep everyone else safe. However, while laws are on the books to keep the public from harm, the NYPD has repeatedly told several news outlets (including The Gothamist) that as long as the dog doesn't actually bite someone there's really nothing they can do. And the penalties for such infractions are considerably smaller than they should be. Owners can be fined up to $2,000 for having their dogs off a leash but medical expenses due to dog attack can run up into the tens of thousands.
If you've been injured in an animal attack and the police have done little or nothing to assist you, your best alternative may be finding an experienced NYC dog bite attorney who will help you recover compensation for your injuries from such an attack. Call our office at (800) 734-9338 for a free consultation to learn your rights.