Thursday, February 20, 2020

Court Upholds Dogs' Right to Bark or Growl

In the case of Grau v. Carroll, No. C-48-CV-2017-09424 (C.P. Northampton Co. March 28, 2019 Roscioli, J.), the court granted the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a case where the Plaintiff alleges that she was caused to fall when she was startled by the Defendants’ dog, a golden retriever.  The Plaintiff alleged that the dog ran up to the edge of an invisible/electric fence which caused the Plaintiff to back away from the dog, step off a sidewalk, fall, and allegedly sustain physical injuries.

The Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that the Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to support claims of negligence. In response, the Plaintiff cited a local ordinance pertaining to the confinement of dogs, a violation of the dog law, regarding confinement of dogs and harboring dangerous dogs, and under ordinary common law negligence principles.

The court noted that the evidence presented in the record confirm that the dog was confined to the premises of the owner by way of an electric fence. The court noted that the evidence confirmed that the dog remained within the Defendants’ yard at all times even when the Defendants’ dog was barking at the Plaintiff’s dog. 

With regards to the Plaintiff’s allegation that the Defendants were harboring a dangerous dog, no evidence was produced that the dog had ever bitten any other human or animal. The court noted that, the fact that the Defendants’ dog would run up to the electric fence lien and bark at people walking by was not sufficient to support a finding that the Defendants harbored an aggressive dog. 

The court also rejected the Plaintiff’s arguments under common law negligence principles for many of the same reasons. More specifically, the court noted that the evidence confirmed that the dog remained confined to the Defendants’ premises. The court additionally noted that there was no duty under the law for a dog owner to prevent his dog from barking or growling or from running along a fence inside the owner’s yard so as to prevent the dog from allegedly startling others. 

In defense of dogs, the court noted that “[t]he simple reality is that dogs bark, and sometimes growl. It is their means of communication, as they lack the capacity for speech that humans possess. To impose upon dog owners a duty to prevent their dogs from barking or growling would be to impose an impossible burden.” 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK

If you need any assistance bringing any dog bite case you may have to a close by way of a settlement, please do not hesitate to contact me to arrange for a mediation through Cummins Mediation Services. Curriculum Vitae and Fee Schedule available upon request.

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