Monday, May 14, 2012
Help Me Howard: Attacked by Dog
You are out walking, enjoying the evening. Suddenly, two dogs come running out of a neighbor's yard and attack. It's scary, and it's all too common. But legally, what can you do? It's why one family called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Nanette Ortiz has been deaf since birth, but if you see her, don't worry. She has no trouble communicating with people.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "She hears sound and she reads lips like no tomorrow. She can understand every word we're saying just if we enunciate and move our lips."
Nanette lives with her sister Linda in a Fort Lauderdale building, where 30 people have pets. And during the day, Nanette is the person who cares for most of the animals.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "You walk how many dogs, cats? And even a bird, remember the bird? Two fish?"
Then, a few weeks ago, Nanette was walking her dog.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "And two dogs came running right from behind her and knocked her over and launched after Enzo."
As Nanette tried to protect her dog against the pit bull and boxer, a neighbor heard her screaming.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "The dogs were on her at the time and getting him, and he called out and shoots them away."
At the same time, a man came out of this house, called the dogs and brought them inside. By then, Nanette and another neighbor had rushed Enzo to the vet, where Linda met them.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "She was shaking and crying and breathing heavy, saying, 'My dog's gonna die, my dog's gonna die.'"
Nanette was lucky. She was just scratched up. But Enzo was a bloody mess, with eight different puncture wounds over his body and a broken leg.
The vet patched him up, and the Ortiz sisters were left with over a $1,000 vet bill.
Then, they called Broward County Animal Care.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "And they said that they would take it from there and I don't know what that means."
Linda was told three men lived at the house with the two dogs. She didn't think it was smart to go down and confront them. We tried. The dogs made a lot of noise but no one came to the door.
And the dogs' owners never came to apologize to Nanette and Linda, and never offered to pay the vet bill.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "He made no effort to even see if the dog was dead or alive, how severe were the injuries."
Now Nanette is afraid the dogs will come running out again.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "If they are pinned up or locked up, or whether they can get out again. It's just frightening, it's very frightening."
Well Howard, if a dog attacks, what's the law?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "If your dog bites a person or another animal, you are responsible. Not only do you have to report it to Animal Control, you have to pay for the damage the dog causes. It's that simple."
After we talked to the homeowner, he said the dogs just got out; that the pit bull didn't belong to anyone in the house; they were keeping it for a friend.
But Broward Animal Control didn't believe that. They issued six citations and fined the two dog owners a total of $1,292 for not reporting the bites, not having dog licenses and no rabies vaccinations.
One owner turned the pit bull over to the Humane Society to avoid any more problems. They kept the boxer.
Then, the homeowner agreed to pay the vet bills. He sent Linda this check for $570 and will send the other $500 next month.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Fortunately, this homeowner is paying for the vet bill. If this happens to you, first make sure you contact Animal Control. They can't make the dogs' owner pay a hospital or vet bill, but you can by going to small claims court and a judge can force them to pay."
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "Thanks to Channel 7. They reached out."
Linda says the homeowner who wrote the check told her he was very sorry about what happened, and the sisters and their dog are very happy at the way things worked out.
Linda Ortiz, Dog Attacked: "Today, his wounds are good, he's jumping around, Nan's joyful again in her crazy little self and confident to go walking, and I'm just rejoicing in how this has turned out."
Patrick Fraser: "If your dog gets out and bites someone, they aren't automatically confiscated and put to sleep. In most cases, you can keep the animal. However, if they declare it dangerous, you have to follow a lot of rules. But if it's a family pet, it's worth it."
Ready to escape a problem that's dogging you? Don't bark up the wrong tree. Just call us. We will stop the howling and unleash the law for you.
To report a dog to Miami-Dade County, call 305-884-1101.
To report a dog to Broward County, call 954-359-1313.