In August, an 82-year-old Passaic woman walked into her backyard to fill her birdfeeders. An approximately 80-lb. pit bull-type dog owned by a neighbor scaled a 6-foot fence dividing the properties and attacked the woman. Suffering severe injury to her arm and leg, she escaped the dog and made it into her home, leaving bloody footprints in her path, and was taken to the hospital. The woman is expected to recover, but the dog, suspected of attacking a neighborhood boy the previous year, was euthanized.
This attack highlights the concerns of many people about pit bull-type dogs. While any dog can be dangerous, pit bull mixes combine the muscle and jaw strength of a bulldog with the agility and combativeness of a terrier. While other dog breeds may be inclined to bite, pit bull mixes possess a physiology and character that may make them more inclined to inflict fatal wounds.
As we discussed earlier, dog owners in New Jersey have strict liability for damage and injury caused by their pets. While there is no breed-specific ban on pit bull mixes or other types of dogs in the state, the Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act provides some protection for citizens and defines clearly what the law considers is a dangerous dog.
Following a case involving a German Shepherd in Princeton, the act was amended in 2007 to:
* Clarify steps that can be taken, other than euthanasia, if a dog is found to be dangerous
* Define the difference between a provoked and unprovoked dog attack
* Explain responsibilities of owners whose dogs are deemed to be dangerous
Dog bites are serious, and dog attacks can be fatal.