Dogs are one of the most common household pets in Wisconsin. While many owners train their dogs to be obedient and not violent, the same is not true of all dog owners. Even well behaved dogs act out at times, and it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain what is going to provoke a dog to attack. Regardless of the care a dog owner takes to train his or her dog, Wisconsin law dictates that the owner is ultimately responsible for the full amount of damages caused by the dog when it injuries another person, domestic animal or property. (Wis. Stat. § 174.02).
In certain cases, a dog owner may be on the hook for double damages if their dog attacks another person. The law in Wisconsin states that if a dog bites someone with enough force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement, the dog owner would be liable for two times the full amount of damages caused when that owner knew that his or her dog had previously bitten another person with force sufficient to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement without any provocation. (Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(b)).
There may be monetary penalties imposed by statute, which are in addition to the damages caused to the person, animal or property discussed above. If a dog has not bitten or attacked in the past, the owner could be liable for a monetary penalty of not less than $50 but not more than $2,500 depending upon the extent of the damages. If an owner has notice that his or her dog has injured someone in the past, that monetary penalty could range from not less than $200 to not more than $5,000 depending upon the extent of the damages caused by the dog.
In some circumstances, a court may order that a dog be killed when a civil action has been filed by a person who was injured by a dog, or by a person whose minor child or animal was injured by a dog. According to Wis. Stat. § 174.02(3)(a), the court must find that two criteria are met before granting an order to kill a dog. First, the court must find that the dog caused “serious injury” to either a person or a domestic animal on two separate occasions off of the owner’s property and without reasonable cause. (Wis. Stat. § 174.02(3)(a)(1)). Second, the court must find that the owner was aware that the dog caused the first injury prior to the time when the dog caused the second serious injury. (Wis. Stat. s. 174.02(3)(a)(2)). The statute requires that the officer tasked with enforcing the judgment of killing the dog shall do so “in a proper and humane manner.” (Wis. Stat. § 174.02(3)(b)).
There is an exception in the statute for dogs used by law enforcement agencies. The exception states that an owner of a dog used by a law enforcement agency is not liable for damages that may be caused by the dog to a suspect while the dog is performing “law enforcement functions.” (Wis. Stat. § 174.02(4)).
On Sunday, March 3, 2019, a four-year-old boy in Layton, Utah was attempting to play with some dogs in the yard next door to his house. When he reached through the fence, a husky-breed dog bit his hand. The dog bit the hand so hard that it was ultimately severed from the little boy’s arm. While a severed limb can sometimes be reattached, the article states that unfortunately that will not be an option for the boy. Authorities searched the area for several hours, but the hand could not be found. They believe the hand may have been eaten by the dog.
While severed limbs are not all that common following a dog bite, victims often do sustain permanent scarring on the parts of their body that were bitten. This can be especially traumatic in young children who are forced to grow up with permanent marks often on parts of their body that are visible to their peers, such as the face. The medical field has come a long way in what can be done cosmetically for these scars, but they typically will never be fully healed. The victim is almost always left with a constant reminder of the attack, which often results in emotional and psychological issues in addition to the physical injuries.
It is important to note that dog bites are not always cut and dry on liability. If the person who was bit did something to provoke the dog, the law in Wisconsin recognizes that there may have been some contributory negligence on the victim. In those types of cases, the dog owner would not necessarily be held 100% responsible for the damages. As long as the dog owner’s negligence was more than the victim’s, however, the dog owner is still responsible for compensating the victim for the portion of the damages caused by the dog.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite in Wisconsin, the attorneys at Groth Law Firm may be able to help. When a dog bite occurs, it is crucial to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the injury is documented by the proper authorities. Investigation must also be done to determine whether or not this is a dog’s “second offense” thus exposing the owner to liability for double damages.
Time is of the essence in these types of cases. You will want to have a skilled, dedicated and experienced dog bite attorney fighting for you every step of the way. That is where the team at Groth Law Firm comes in. We walk with you through every step of the process ensuring that your rights are protected and your recovery is maximized. Our attorneys are available seven days per week to discuss the facts surrounding your injury and to answer any questions you might have. The Groth Law Firm offers free consultations and does not charge you unless they recover compensation on your behalf. Call the attorneys of Groth Law Firm today at (414) 375-2030.