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Animal Attacks: Animals Gone Wild – Laws, Stats, and Help for Victims

Granite Law Group

Recent news headline might have read: ANIMALS GONE WILD. A girl was bit by a dolphin at SeaWorld in Georgia, a goat chased school children in Texas, a camel got loose and was finally captured at a gas station in California, a zebra and a pony got loose and ran through the streets of Staten Island, and Big Foot was spotted in an orchard in Vermont.

Assuming Big Foot is real, we can exclude Big Foot from our discussion because Big Foot is considered a wild animal. If someone had one in captivity then we’d all know if Big Foot actually exists. But as for the camel, zebra, dolphin and goat, how dangerous are captured and domestic animals to the general population?

Recently, we heard the horrific story of a 2 year old boy being attacked by a pack of African Wild Dogs at a zoo when he accidently fell into their cage at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Not as recently, we heard about a pet chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Connecticut and caused injuries that were so catastrophic that the woman had to undergo a face transplant.

One must consider the risks of exotic animal attacks on the general population. Live Science has gathered statistics on Exotic Pet Ownership and the risks. From 1990 to 2011 there were 75 fatalities and 1,610 injuries caused by exotic pets.

Source: LiveScience

Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have bans regarding owning captive wildlife. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 131 § 77A prohibits wild canid and felid hybrids, including wolf and coyote hybrids. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 131 § 23 prohibits the possession, sale or breeding of any wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile or amphibian unless the animal was owned prior to 1995. New Hampshire also bans possession or sale of exotic animals with very few exceptions. RSA466-a:3 prohibits wolf hybrids.

While most of those laws would limit exotic or wild pet ownership among the general population, they do not limit the scope of animals allowed to be legally owned and displayed as zoos and other wildlife parks. In 2010, a female wolf escaped from the Ipswich Wolf Hollow when accumulated snow allowed her to climb a snow bank and hop over the fence of her enclosure. The wolf was eventually returned without incident. In 2009, deer at the Southwick Zoo caused numerous injuries including lacerating the cheek of a young girl and kicking a young boy in the face. In 2003, a gorilla escaped at the Franklin Park zoo and caused serious injury to a woman and her 2 year old child.

Any unprovoked animal attack can be exceptionally frightening. Often victims experience post-traumatic stress syndrome following the attack and are plagued by recurring nightmares of the attack. When the animal attack is from a dog, the post-traumatic effects can be more profound as the typical American encounters dogs every day. The Humane Society estimates that there are 78.2 million dogs in the United States. Counseling and psychotherapy can be very helpful in providing victims with some coping mechanisms when they encounter a dog or the same kind of animal which attacked them.

Bites, lacerations, and infections are also common injuries resulting from animal attacks. Often these injuries result in permanent scarring and in some cases, disfigurement.

Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have a strict liability law concerning dog bites. This means in the event that a dog bites or attacks a person, the owner of the dog will be held legally responsible for any injuries or harm caused by the dog. The laws are less clear about other animal attacks. An experienced attorney at the Granite Law Group would best be able to determine if the owner or keeper of the animal was negligent and if the victim might be able to recover compensation for his or her injuries. Our attorneys have handled numerous animal attack cases including pit bull attacks, dog attacks and dog bites, cat attacks and cat bites, and even a deer bite at a petting zoo. If you or a loved one has been injured by any domesticated animal or animal in captivity, contact a highly experienced Animal Attack Attorney today. We are licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York.

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