Monday, March 19, 2012

Dog Attacks Birder in Central Park

But of course the dog was "just trying to be friendly". Correspondence we received yesterday:
Hi! I hope you can direct me as to what to do. I will definitely try to go to court. I was standing in the pine tree area above the Meer, quietly looking in the trees when I feel something jumping on my back. At first I did not know what it was. I tried to shake it off and then realized it was a clinging jumping dog. It would not stop clinging to me, and ultimately ripped my jacket, probably with its claw. (What if I were not wearing a thick jacket ) The owner got the dog off. I was angry. Of course there was angry discourse. She accused me of being a rude, loud person. I told her we should exchange information like phone numbers. She said I should give her information, but she would not give me her phone number.

Meanwhile two other dog owners come over, and one lady says she was a witness, and the dog was just being friendly and it jumped me from the front. She did not care that my jacket was ripped. I said I would get a police officer, and a nice man told me there was one watching the race. I ran over and she came over and asked this nasty owner of the dog to give us her ID. Of course the woman said she did not have ID. She gave us her alleged name and alleged phone number. I asked for the dog`s license. She gave a phony number I believe. I was traumatized emotionally and did not think straight then that this was a phony license. I think this was a Pit Bull. It was medium sized, bulky with a big blocky head. I got the badge number and name of the police officer, who seemed nice. I am speaking to a staffer in my Councilman`s office tomorrow. I am following through. Too many people, who have been molested by dogs do not want to go through any process. I defer to you.

Our response:
If the dog wasn’t allowed off-leash then or there then the cop should have hauled the woman off to the police station when she couldn’t produce ID. That is SOP in other cases. That this was not done here tells you what you are up against.

Good luck with the councilperson, but do not expect much The anti-leash lobby is too powerful.

I hope you have the (1) money to hire a private investigator to track down the dog owner and (2) either a friend who is a lawyer or the money to hire one at an hourly rate. No lawyer will take the case on a contingency because you were not injured badly. If you have both, then you can sue this person and get back at it—I won’t dignify the person by calling it “her”—by forcing it to hire its own lawyer, and maybe even pay you enough money to compensate you for your legal fees. I say maybe. If not, I think you have no prayer. It doesn’t sound like the cop saw anything, so the cop won’t help and will likely say something like “nothing really happened”’ and when push comes to shove it will be your word against the word of three lying dog owners. And in any event my experience is that cops, even in a situation where the dog owner—-not the dog-—has assaulted the birdwatcher will sound sympathetic and, when push comes to shove, will not help in the least.

Oh, and BTW, even if the dog did injure you when it was illegally offleash, under New York law the fact that it was illegally offleash will not help you. One thing you could do is try to get your assemblyperson or state senator to introduce legislation changing this situation.

The situation you described is precisely why I have stopped going to Prospect Park to watch birds in the morning. In the future, if you go to Central Park in any area in which there might be an unleashed dog--and my experience is that this is anywhere-- I suggest you go in a large group-—at least four-—and carry dog repellent.

Two other pieces of advice:

1. If you somehow manage to sue this person, she will countersue you--for assaulting her dog, for assaulting her dog, etc., It doesn't matter that she's making things up. Remember, you have no witnesses, and she has three who are presumably prepared to lie. Neither the cops nor the justice system is terribly good at distinguishing fact from fiction. A former boss once told me, "Do not get into a pissing match with a skunk." My guess is that you have more to lose than the dog owner.

2. When you go into the park, carry a digital camera, but before you use it, make sure that the person you are photographing either doesn't realize it or is not in the position to take the camera away from you.

Based on some correspondence we had with a dog bite lawyer, this sort of thing apparently happens frequently, but so far nobody has been injured badly enough for this particular lawyer to take a case. No doubt that situation will change.

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