Leading Montana Personal Injury Law Firm Hoyt and Blewett PLLC Calls for Changes to Dog Bite Laws in Response to Recent Attacks

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Hoyt and Blewett PLLC personal injury attorney and State Senator Anders Blewett emphasize the need for new laws in response to recent high profile dog attacks around Montana.

It’s no secret that children are the most common victims of dog attacks and are prone to suffering life-threatening and disfiguring injuries from these attacks. There is no valid reason why these legal protections should not be afforded to all children...

Recent Dog Attacks Highlight Need for Changes in Montana’s Dog Bite Laws

In the wake of several high profile dog attacks around Montana, including a 7-year-old girl [Source: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/girl-attacked-by-bulldogs-in-creston/article_b89a6bfc-3621-11e1-aaf2-0019bb2963f4.html who was mauled by four dogs in Creston, a 12-year-old girl [Source: http://www.kbzk.com/news/dog-bite-victim-speaks-on-animal-ordinance-proposal/ who suffered puncture wounds in her back following a dog attack in Butte, and two 3-year-old girls who received facial injuries from separate dog attacks in Great Falls [Source: http://www.kfbb.com/news/local/Dog-Bites-Three-Year-Girl-158801035.html and Hamilton [Source: http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/local/article_76bb5e30-bcb4-11e0-a159-001cc4c03286.html , Hoyt and Blewett PLLC personal injury attorney and State Senator Anders Blewett has renewed his call for legislation to enhance protections for dog bite victims.

Under a Montana law enacted in 1943, dog owners in urban areas are held strictly liable for all injuries caused by their dogs, meaning the victim is relieved of proving that the owner knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities prior to the attack. However, these same legal protections do not exist for dog bite victims who are attacked outside incorporated towns and cities. Data from the 2010 US Census shows that almost half of Montana’s 998,199 population lives outside incorporated towns and cities.

Blewett believes the rationale for limiting the legal protections for dog bite victims is arbitrary and needs to change in order to protect children from the risk of dog attacks. “It’s no secret that children are the most common victims of dog attacks and are prone to suffering life-threatening and disfiguring injuries from these attacks. There is no valid reason why these legal protections should not be afforded to all children in Montana regardless of where they happen to live,” said Blewett.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, with more than half of these victims being children. Specific figures regarding the number of injuries caused by dogs in Montana are not available.

In recent years, the state legislature has attempted to address the issue of dog attacks without success. Blewett introduced legislation during the 2009 Montana State legislative session which would have expanded legal protections to dog bite victims throughout Montana. The bill passed the House of Representatives with substantial bipartisan support, but died in the Senate after vigorous opposition from the insurance industry. Liability coverage for dog bites is often provided under the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy.

While action at the state level has stalled, some local governments have taken action to address the injuries caused by vicious dogs. Following a pair of pitbull attacks, the city of White Sulphur Springs passed a city ordinance in 2010 requiring owners of Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers to carry $500,000 in liability insurance. Owners of other dog breeds are required to carry insurance, but only if their dog engaged in a previous attack. The city of Billings also amended its animal control ordinance in 2011 to require owners of dangerous dogs to obtain liability insurance in the amount of at least $500,000.

Blewett is encouraged that local authorities are taking action to discourage dog attacks. “It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Blewett said. “However, dog bites to children are a growing problem in Montana and more needs to be done at the state level to deter ownership of dangerous dogs and to protect these young victims.”

Anders Blewett is a Montana State Senator and attorney at the personal injury law firm of Hoyt and Blewett PLLC in Great Falls, Montana, where he represents injured people in complex civil litigation involving wrongful death, insurance bad faith, FELA railroad, car accidents, medical malpractice, and more.

For more information visit: http://www.hoytblewett.com

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