If you, your pet, your friend or family member are the victim of a pit bull attack, follow these recommended steps.
1. Contact the media. They want to know and they need to know. Have a friend or family member coordinate media calls and interviews if you are in shock. Police, animal control, hospitals and vets have privacy laws preventing them from initiating media contact. Only by making your attack public can you change things for others.
2. At the time of the attack, ask witnesses to take cell phone photos and videos. Photograph the attack, injuries to people and animals, and evidence of the owner’s negligence (broken leash, no collar or leash, etc.) Many cases have been lost because victims could not produce visual records of broken leashes, etc. Provide your email address and ask that all photos and videos be sent to you.
3. Ask people for help collecting names, phone numbers and emails (or business cards) from witnesses to the attack.
4. Seek medical assistance even for small injuries, and request copies of the medical records. Photograph all injuries immediately.
5. Call both the police and the animal control in your city to report the incident. Be sure to get the file numbers. If only animal services attends the attack, follow up with a report to your local police and get the case number. If the dog owner has broken local laws, you need to make a police report as well.
REPORT ALL ATTACKS even if your attack resulted in a minor injury. Many cities have a “one bite rule”. Your claim on record will be vital evidence the next time the dog bites or attacks.
6. Make a record of the names of all law enforcement officials who attended the scene or collected information afterwards. You will need this later if you pursue a civil suit.
7. If you need more information after the attack, see if the area has a Block Watch group that will assist you in contacting neighbors.
8. Ask around to see if neighbors have had any problems with the same dog. Did it bite other neighbors, their children or other dogs? Has your city’s animal control center issued citations or warnings to your neighbor concerning the violent tendencies of her dog? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you may have the basis of a legitimate claim for personal injury and property damage.
9. Keep detailed records of damages. Damages can include your medical bills, lost wages, expenses for medications, torn clothing, and other personal property damaged during a dog attack. In cases of dog-on-dog aggression, damages include reimbursement for veterinary bills, dog medications and kennel fees. In cases of fatal dog attacks, damages may extend to include the replacement cost of a deceased dog.
10. Keep a detailed record of PTSD symptoms. If you seek professional help, ask the therapist/counselor to keep records of your visits. In most areas you have up to two years to file a civil suit. The PTSD may last much longer than you expect. It is important to start getting help soon after the attack.
11. Keep copies of medical and veterinary bills and records, receipts for medications, and replacement costs for torn clothes or other personal property like jewelry, computers or cell phones damaged during the attack. If you were hurt and had to miss work, ask your employer for a written letter verifying the dates and times you were absent and the amount of wages you lost as a result.
12. You will be asked to complete a form with information about the attack. Be very careful to be very clear about exactly what happened. Fill it out right away so you remember the details. But do not submit it before having a professional assess your comments. The prosecutor will use the information on your form together with recommended charges by animal services to decide if there is a legal case or not, and you may not have another chance to state what happened.
13. Expect the attacking dog to be taken by Animal Control to confinement. The owner may choose to have the dog euthanized. If not, Animal Control will have it assessed for aggressive behavior.
In areas without breed legislation, it is more difficult to make a case because dogs are considered property. Only with repeated attacks can your local authorities act, so again be sure you report it, if only to help the next person.
14. If the city or county does not press charges against the dog owner, you can proceed with a legal claim against the owner. This is called a civil suit. In response, the owner may initiate legal action to keep the dog. In this case, the dog may be in the care of the city for many months.
15. Consult a lawyer to determine how long you have before you need to file a civil claim. In many areas, you can file a claim for a pit bull attack for up to two years after the event. Always contact law firms for a consultation even if you don’t have the money to hire them. Many law firms will work on contingency on your behalf.
16. Find pit bull victim groups and advocate groups on Facebook to help you learn more and begin the healing process. http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org/partners-friends/