A 22-year-old woman was arrested on October 9 after her pit bull attacked a 4-year-old girl in National City. Brittany Gardiner was walking her pit bull in an apartment complex when a 4-year-old girl approached. The child asked if she could pet Gardiner’s dog. The roughly 65-pound dog attacked the child, biting her face. It took four men and Gardiner quite a while to pry the dog away from the child. They punched and kicked the dog, and even hit it repeatedly with a rock until it let go.
Gardiner attempted to flee. She ran upstairs to her apartment with her dog, grabbed her keys, got in her car, and tried to pull out of the parking lot. The police came and blocked her in. She was arrested and charged with child endangerment, resisting police, and allowing a vicious animal to inflict injury. The dog was impounded. It will undergo rabies testing and will likely be euthanized.
The child was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where she was admitted in serious condition with injuries to her face and upper body. By the same night, she was listed in fair condition.
Dog bites are a serious problem, with serious consequences. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite-related injury. Even more frightening, it is estimated that for every dog bite that is reported, three go unreported. More than 60% of all dog bite victims are children, and their injuries tend to be more severe than those suffered by adults. Further, 75% of dog bite attacks happen in the home, either by the family’s dog or a friend’s dog.
While Gardiner has been charged under criminal law, the owner of a biting dog may also be liable for civil damages. California statute places the burden on dog owners. The statute is designed to prevent dogs from being a hazard to the community. Dog owners are held “strictly liable,” which means that the victim must only prove that the dog was owned by the defendant, the dog bite occurred in a place the victim was allowed to be, the victim was injured by the dog bite, and the dog caused the injury. There is no need to prove that the dog owner knew about the dog’s violent tendencies or that the dog owner acted negligently.
If you are bitten by a dog, there are several steps you should take. First, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Dog bites are a risk for infection, especially if the dog has not been vaccinated. It is also important that you try to identify the dog that bit you, and then report the attack to the local county animal control agency or the sheriff’s department. Then as soon as practical after the dog bite attack, take photographs of any visible injuries and any torn or bloody clothes.