Texas Dog Bite Fatality Rate The Highest In The Nation

A shocking dog bite case recently made national news and has reignited public debate about the subject of animal attacks. The frightening attack took place in Grimes, Iowa, and resulted in a woman having her nose bitten off by an out-of-control dog. The incident only ended after Caren Henry’s husband, Laine, began fighting the dog, actually biting it on the nose in order to get it to let go of his wife. The victim faces myriad painful cosmetic surgeries that will harvest cartilage from other parts of her body to rebuild a functioning nose for her.

This case is a unique and extreme one, obviously, but it is becoming a rallying cry for dog safety advocates in Texas and around the country. Texas’ dog bite prevention organizations are focusing on both the gruesome nature of the Henry attack as well as a recent report showing that Texas has one of the highest fatal dog bite rates in the nation as the impetus for a renewed fight to toughen Texas dog bite laws.

Shocking dog bite statistics

A survey of dog bites around the country shows that Texas has been the site of 34 animal attack fatalities between January of 2005 and February of 2013. Sadly, children under the age of 11 are the most frequent victims of deadly dog bites, representing a whopping 68 percent of the fatal cases. Children are often attacked by animals due to a combination of their inquisitive nature, their small stature and their slow reaction times. The elderly are also commonly bitten, mostly due to their inability to flee quickly.

The federal Centers for Disease Control report that nearly 4.5 million dog bites occur around the country annually, nearly one million of which result in treatable injuries. Texas, with its high rate of traditionally dangerous breeds (like pit bulls and rottweilers), concentration of multiple-dog homes, large number of chained animals and a history of dog fighting, particularly in rural areas, has one of the highest animal attack rates in the country.

Shortcomings in Texas’ dog bite laws

Despite being one of the most "active" dog bite states, Texas law makes it difficult for those bitten and injured by domestic animals to recover adequate compensation. This is partly due to two distinct factors:

  • Texas law essentially gives dogs "one free bite" – the law only holds dog owners accountable for the actions of their pets if the dog has previously bitten someone (or put someone in fear of a bite because of aggressive behavior) and the owner knew about the prior incident/behavior
  • Texas state law prohibits local governments from establishing breed-specific regulations, thus not taking into account the "dangerous" reputation that several dog breeds have or the fact that a small number of breeds account for a grossly disproportionate amount of animal attacks in the state

There have been recent attempts to make the laws governing dog bites tougher, most notably the passage of "Lillian’s Law," named after Lillian Stiles, who was killed by a group of her neighbor’s dogs while mowing her lawn. This law doesn’t, however, close all the loopholes that can prevent a dog owner from being held accountable for their animal’s actions.

Have you or a loved one been bitten by a dog? Did you tragically lose a loved one in an animal attack? If so, you probably have questions and concerns. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options you may have for holding the parties responsible accountable.