No punishment for dog that attacked 7-year-old-boy

By Stephen Hooker - email

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A 7-year-old boy was attacked by a dog outside his West Columbia home. The boy's mother says his stitches are the result of an encounter with an unrestrained bull mastiff. Brandy Hancock turned to the law for help, but found there isn't a lot of help available.

Austin Harris usually rides for fun, but on Tuesday morning, he rode to escape. "The dogs pulled him down, just tackled him and the other two dogs came after him, biting him, pulling on him like he was a chew toy," said Austin's mother, Brandy Hancock.

"It was scary, to me," said Harris. "I yelled, but I wasn't crying."

Thirteen dog bites and a bunch of stitches later, Austin's mother wanted action. An animal control officer did just that, following the law to the letter. "They are just letting the dog stay right next door, quarantined," said Hancock.

That's the law, but Brandi is flat-out mad. "Animal control came back over here and said the same thing, 'we cannot do anything,'" said Hancock.  "'There is not a law stating that we can take the dog from the owner just because of a dog attack.'"

The problem is, as police explain it, the dog had no officially reported prior attacks or even complaints against him. "We would encourage people with a problem, let us know about it and we'll certainly come out and see what we can do to make things better for them," said Maj. Jackie Brothers.

In other words, a dog with a complaint history will get the owner in trouble. Over a third of all homeowner policy liability claims are for dog bites, and the average settlement is nearly $25,000.

So while criminal charges may not come out of these cases, there's always the option for a civil lawsuit. The downside is that after a settlement, your insurance rates may go sky-high or you may be dropped altogether.

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