“An off-leash dog is a tired dog, and a tired dog is a good dog.” We wonder how that jibes with the events described in Staten Island Man Is Mauled by Neighbor's Pit Bulls in today’s New York Times. The dogs stripped most of the skin of one arm and one leg and left bite marks across the parts of the body of the victim, a 90-year-old man, that they did not shred. Neighbors said that the dogs rarely were on a leash.
According to this update, the victim has had a leg amputated. The Staten Island Advance reports that he might lose an arm too. Also, the owner has now been “charged” with having unlicensed dogs and not having his dogs on a leash. But these aren’t crimes; they’re only violations, punishable by a small fine. To put the owner away for as long as he deserves, prosecutors are going to have to come up with something better, such as criminally negligent homicide when the victim dies of his wounds, as would seem inevitable. But what if the victim lives? Sure he could sue, but not if this were the first time the dogs had bitten anyone, and besides: how much will anyone be able to collect from this owner? Perhaps it is time for the state legislature to enact a law that an assault by an animal that is illegally off-leash is deemed to be an assault by the owner, subject to the same criminal penalties as if the owner had committed it. Unduly harsh? We think not.
As one would expect, commentary on the web is focusing on precisely the wrong issue, the breed of dog in the attack and whether that breed should be banned. This sort of attack could happen with other breeds of dogs as well. The problem was not that they were pit bulls. The problem was that they were chronically off-leash and that, as usual, the cops knew about it and did nothing.A related matter: as we pointed out here , short of hiring a lawyer, you have pretty much no recourse if your dog is attacked by an unleashed pit bull--or by any other dog--in New York City. You can't even file a police report.