2013 Ends With Tragic Dog Mauling in Ranchos De Taos, New Mexico

A 12 year old boy was attacked by two Rottweilers as he walked up a shared driveway of the dog owners and a neighboring resident. The boy suffered severe damage to his legs, back, and arms. The property contained an “underground fence”, which was part of a system using shock collars to control the dogs if they wandered past the barriers of the fence. The driveway, however, was inside the boundaries of the fence. The dog owners were issued county citations after the attack, and the dogs were taken into custody by animal control officers. The dog owners relinquished control of the animals, which were deemed to be an “ongoing danger to the community”, and they have been scheduled to be euthanized.

In New Mexico there is not a state statute specifically addressing dog bites. Case precedent, however, has established that the owner of a dog can be held liable for the injuries caused by a dog mauling if he or she knew, or should have known, that the dog was vicious or had a tendency to be vicious. (See Perkins v. Drury, 57 N.M. 269 P.2d 379 (1953)). In another New Mexico dog bite case, Smith v. Village of Ruidoso, 128 N.M. 470, 994 P.2d 50 (Ct.App. 1999), the Court established that an injured party may recover under a negligence theory of liability, and not just the established recovery under the theory of strict liability. Previously, courts required the injured to show that the owner of the dog had actual or constructive knowledge of the vicious propensities (See Torres v. Rosenbaum, 56 N.M.663, 246 P.2d 662 (1952)), but the Court in Smith reasoned that there was no persuasive reason or barrier to preclude an injured party from recovery under a theory of negligence. In dog bite cases, one may recover under the theory of negligence if the owner failed to prevent the harm by some act, like ineffectively controlling the animal.

Dog bites can cause substantial physical and emotional harm. Following a dog bite, investigation may be needed to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the attack, including the owner’s typical care and control of the dog, the dog’s reputation in the neighborhood, and any history of incidents documented by animal control. This information can establish the liability the dog owner bears, and determine what legal avenues are available for the injured or injured’s family.

The New Mexico dog bite attorneys at Parnall Law Firm understand the amount of recovery required following the traumatic event of a dog attack. Our experienced lawyers are very familiar with home owner insurance policies, and know how to aggressively litigate a dog bite personal injury case to maximize the compensation you receive. If you or a family member has been injured on someone’s property, and would like to speak to one of our attorneys today, call our office at (505) 332-2378 for a free, confidential consultation today.