Murder charges brought against owner of pit bulls that killed 4-year-old boy

Detroit Case Underscores Responsibility Owners Have for Pets’ ActionsIt is simple common sense—and human decency—for pet owners to feel responsible for the actions of their animals. And in every state, the law reflects this principle by mandating some degree of liability for animal attack injuries, especially dog bite injuries.

What different states disagree on is whether the animal’s owner needs to have prior knowledge that their pet is “dangerous” in order to be held liable. In California, we have a strict liability law on the books, which holds that a dog owner is always responsible for unprovoked injuries caused by their pet, regardless of whether or not the dog has ever attacked anyone or even shown aggressive tendencies before.

In some rare cases, owners may be held to an even stricter standard, as one horrific story from Detroit shows.

Geneke Antonio Lyons, the owner of four pit bulls who attacked and killed a four-year-old boy, is now facing second-degree murder charges for the actions of his pets.

The dogs were kept behind a fence, but the fence was not secure. This enabled the dogs to attack the boy and his mother, who were walking on the sidewalk past the enclosure. The dogs dragged the boy under the fence into the yard, where they then mauled him to death. Three of the dogs were subsequently shot by police, and the fourth was later euthanized.

The county prosecutor has stated they have every confidence that the evidence will show that the dogs saw the boy “as a meal” and that Lyons’s irresponsible pet ownership does indeed rise to the level of second degree murder in this case.

The boy’s family is also pursuing a civil case against Lyons, as well as against the owner of the property where the dog was kept. Their chances of success seem high, considering that the dogs had escaped from their fenced yard before, and there were prior complaints on record about them. This should clearly show that both Lyons and the property owner should have known the dogs posed a danger and, in not taking any action to protect the public, failed in their duty of care.

Have You Been Injured by a Pet?

Remember, in the state of California it is not necessary to prove than an animal was known to be dangerous in order to pursue a civil case against the owner, but a history of dangerous behavior can certainly help strengthen your case. Also, remember that the animal does not need to have actually attacked you. Any injury caused by an interaction with an animal, such as getting tripped or knocked down by a dog or kicked by a horse, could potentially form the basis for a case.

To learn more about animal attack liability law and find out if you might be able to secure compensation for your injuries from the animal’s owner, call 909-982-0707 and schedule a free initial consultation with Fernando D. Vargas.