Broward County animal control officials euthanized two pit bulls who attacked a woman and her smaller dog, CBS4 reported June 3. Kailen Gonzalez was attacked in Fort Lauderdale while she and her brother were walking three dogs. One of the dogs died in the attack; Gonzalez and another dog were injured. In response, authorities in Broward County impounded the pit bulls, declared them dangerous and put them to sleep. They also fined the pit bulls’ owner, Katarzyna Zalewski, saying she didn’t have rabies vaccinations or pet licenses for the dogs.
Gonzalez was attacked May 20 in the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of Victoria Park. CBS reports that the two pit bulls, Bobby and Shelbi, ran out of a neighbor’s backyard and attacked the humans and their smaller dogs. Zalewski disputed that account in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, saying the dogs were on her property and had been provoked. In the end, a silky terrier named Bella, who Gonzalez was dog-sitting, was dead; Gonzalez’s dog Milo was injured; and Gonzalez herself was bitten while trying to protect the dogs. Her brother and a third dog were not hurt. The Sun-Sentinel said Gonzalez suffered bites to her face that required 25 stitches and are expected to leave permanent scars.
The dogs were euthanized under a Broward County ordinance that allows authorities to put a dangerous dog to sleep after just one fatal mauling of a domestic animal. (The dogs’ owners have a right to appeal, but Zalewski chose not to in this case.) This is stricter than the previous law, which required two fatal attacks, and is being challenged in at least five lawsuits. Meanwhile, neighboring Palm Beach County is considering a similar law that would label a dog dangerous after just one attack. Those dogs would not be automatically put to sleep, but they would be banned from public places, sterilized, required to wear a muzzle and impounded for any violations by owners. Two fatal attacks on a domestic animal would trigger euthanization.
As a Pembroke Pines dog bite lawyer, I’m sorry for the injuries to Gonzalez and Milo and the death of Bella — but I’m pleased that the public is taking the threat of dog attacks seriously. While most dogs are loving, fun companions, large dogs that are untrained, abused, neglected or trained for violence can kill and very seriously injure people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that dog attacks send 6,000 Americans to the hospital every year and kill about 15 — usually children, who are lower to the ground and less sophisticated about canine behavior. Like Gonzalez, victims may be left with permanent disfigurement, as well as nerve and organ damage, broken bones, serious infections and a lifelong fear of dogs.
Victims of these attacks have the right in Florida to file a Boca Raton dog attack lawsuit to recover the cost of medical treatments, including future surgeries and therapy to reverse physical and emotional scarring. They can also win financial compensation for their injuries, pain, suffering and any permanent disability or disfigurement. In many cases, these damages are covered by the dog owner’s homeowners insurance. Cohn, Smith & Cohn represents clients attacked by dogs throughout South Florida. If the dangerous dog was not leashed or restrained on its owner’s property, as local laws require, our Hallandale dog bite attorneys can prove that the owner is liable, regardless of whether the dog has bitten before.
If you or a loved one was seriously hurt by a dangerous dog, you should call Cohn, Smith & Cohn as soon as possible for a free, confidential consultation. You can reach our main Hollywood office at (954) 431-8100 or contact us through the Internet.