The death of two young children in Millington, Tennessee, after they were mauled to death in a fatal dog attack by the family’s pit bulls, has raised questions and concerns about the safety of the dog breed.
Kirstie Jane Bennard, 30, was seriously injured and her two children – 2-year-old Lilly Jane Bennard and five-month-old Hollace Dean Bennard – were killed in the vicious dog attack on the afternoon of Oct. 5.
Devastating Dog Attack
According to an article in the Daily Mail, Kirstie Bennard spent over 10 minutes trying to save her children. It is not clear why the dogs suddenly became aggressive. Family members said the mom is fighting for her life after the attack. They said she has an “uncountable amount stitches and bite marks over her entire body, including her face” and that her arms and legs are wrapped in bandages.
A family member said Bennard’s injuries won’t cause permanent damage “other than a heart that will never heal.” They said she would never stop grieving for her deceased children. The dogs have been taken away by animal control officials. The investigation into this dog attack is still ongoing. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kirstie Bennard and the family for their tremendous loss. We offer them our deepest condolences.
Debate Over Dog Breeds
A WREG news report delved into why pit bulls are loved and feared simultaneously. They are known for having one of the strongest bites, alongside Mastiffs and Rottweilers. They are also on the journal’s list of dogs that bite the most, alongside Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, and Cocker Spaniels. One pit bull breeder interviewed by the outlet said he decided to get out of the industry out of concern for his children. He said: “you are playing with your life when you have those in your house.”
However, pit bull advocates who are passionate about these dogs say they are among the most loyal breeds of dogs. Advocates say pit bulls typically only bite or attack when attacked, abused, or not adequately trained.
Numbers Tell the Story
According to DogsBite.org, an advocacy group for dog bite victims, 46 U.S. dog bite-related deaths occurred in 2020. The organization’s data shows that pit bulls alone contributed to 72% of these deaths while making up only 6.2% of the total U.S. dog population. During the 16 years between 2005 and 2020, dogs killed 568 people in the United States. Two dog breeds – pit bulls and rottweilers – contributed to 76% of these deaths. In 2020, the combination of pit bull breeds, mastiff-type guard dogs, and war dogs accounted for 87% of all dog bite-related deaths.
The data also shows that 33% of dog bite fatality victims were children aged 9 years and younger. Seven percent were between 10 and 18 and 61% were adults 19 and older. Of the 15 children killed by dogs in 2020, 87% were ages 0 to 2. Pit bulls inflicted deaths in nearly all age groups in 2020. However, most nine victims were between 0 and 2 years old.
Many dog attack incidents are caused by a lack of proper training and owner control. But the numbers still show that certain breeds are more likely to bite than others.
California’s Strict Liability Statute
Regarding dog attacks, California has “strict liability” laws that make pet owners responsible for most dog bite-related injuries. Strict liability essentially means that you are liable for the acts of your pets regardless of whether you knew or should have known that your dog was dangerous. Even if the dog has never shown any prior signs of violence, the owner is responsible for its actions.
When victims file a civil lawsuit in these cases, it doesn’t matter whether the dog owners knew whether their pets had been dangerous before. This means that the dog owner cannot argue in his or her defense that they didn’t know the dog was dangerous. One exception to this statute is when a person is on the dog owner’s premises without permission or intent to commit a crime. Dog owners can be held liable whether their pet bites another person in a public or private location.
Safety Comes First
If you are a parent with children, here are some suggested tips for putting safety first:
- Always adopt from a reputed, well-managed shelter whose staff members and/or volunteers can fill you in on the dog’s background and behavior at the shelter.
- Socialize your dog. Well-socialized dogs make trustworthy pets. Without this, dogs could become frightened and more likely aggressive toward others or their family members.
- Take your dog to humane, reward-based training classes.
- Always supervise your dogs when they are outdoors, even if you have a fenced yard. Do not allow your dog to roam around the neighborhood or let them walk without a leash.
- Do not wait for a serious incident to occur. At the first instance of aggressive behavior, even if no injury occurs, seek professional help.
- License your dog as required by law and provide regular veterinary care including rabies vaccinations
Have You Been Injured in a Dog Attack?
Suppose you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a dog attack. In that case, you must contact an experienced California dog bite lawyer who will remain on your side, fight for your rights and help ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.