(Editor’s Note: This is a news story from the ‘Morgan Monitor,’ a news wire offering legal perspectives on news in your community.)
A pair of stray dogs severely mauled a man out on a morning walk in Monroe, Georgia last Saturday, and authorities are looking for their owner.
Tommy Joe Byrd, 52, went for his morning walk around 5 a.m., when two rottweilers attacked, according to WSB-TV. He remains in intensive care with serious injuries.
His screams alerted Shanda Wise, a witness to the attack. Wise approached the site of the screams in her car with her daughter.
“The dogs were eating the man alive.” 52 y/o man fighting for his life after vicious dog attack. Witness: 2 Rottweilers attacked in Monroe. pic.twitter.com/dczf1mS1jw— Matt Johnson (@MJohnsonWSB) March 20, 2017
“When we got around there we never expected to see what we saw,” Wise told WSB-TV. “The dogs were not fazed; they would not stop.”
“The dogs were eating the man alive,” Wise said. The attack continued until an off-duty Social Circle police officer, alerted by Wise, arrived and killed one rottweiler, wounding the other. The second dog escaped. Byrd was taken to a hospital and received hundreds of stitches, and is in danger of losing limbs and an eye, his family told WSB-TV.
Dog bites can be devastating, leaving victims like Byrd reeling from their injuries. The process of recovery is long, and starts with determining who is responsible. Police say they have an idea who the owner is, and charges can be expected.
What If a Dog Bites Me?
Dogs bite about 4.5 million people each year. Of that number, an estimated 20 percent required medical attention, and roughly 33 percent of all homeowner’s liability insurance claims were for dog bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
This means the cost and frequency of bites are considerable. Insurance companies can get involved, potentially meaning disputes and lengthy court proceedings. Victims often seek justice and prevention in the form of payment for medical bills, emotional trauma, and punitive damages.
Many states have simplified dog bite statutes because of the danger dogs can pose. For instance, in Florida the owner is almost always responsible for the dog’s actions, regardless of prior knowledge.
Georgia’s dog bite law is different. It presumes dogs are initially harmless. This is called a “one-bite rule,” in which the first victim is required to prove the dog is dangerous and that they did not provoke it.
But there are some methods you can use in the courtroom or with an insurance company to bolster your argument. A city’s laws regarding dogs might find pet owners negligent if they don’t keep their dogs on a leash. A knowledgeable attorney may be able to help you wade through the process of proving an owner’s liability.
Byrd continues to fight for his life as the authorities and family members seek answers and responsibility from the owner.
“We thought we were gonna lose him,” Byrd’s nephew told WSB-TV. “The doctor told us if it hadn’t been for the off-duty officer, we would have been dead.”
(Note: Photo is not representative of the actual dog bites described in the story.)