Hi everyone, I've never encountered a situation like this before and I need some advice. Thanks in advance for taking your time out to read, I know it's long but please bear with me!
My mom took our dog on a walk Wednesday morning, and our neighbor's dogs ran out of their yard because the gate was left open, and one dog bit my Coconut on her butt. Out of the two dogs, they were described to me by my mom as a larger Maltese looking dog (about 15 lbs) and the dog that actually bit Coconut was an even bigger brown bull dog type dog. My mom was walking well around their property, she was already on the street (not even the sidewalk) when the dogs ran out of the gate. Coconut yelped loudly when she was bit and that's when the dogs owner heard the noise and came out of the backyard and called his dogs back in, he said sorry to my mom. Thank goodness my mom was unharmed. My mom went on her way home because Coconut seemed okay, no limping just a little shaken up, my mom was shaken up as well. By the time they got home Coconut was bleeding from her butt. After providing basic first aid for Coconut, my mom went back to the neighbors house but no one was home. My mom waited for me to come home until she told me the bad news, and she has not taken Coconut to the vet yet. Since we've never been in this situation before, it might be silly but my mom has no idea that a dog bite is that serious, so she thought she'd let Coco rest and see how she's doing. By the end of the day, Coconut was not moving very much, she looked really sad and did not eat the whole day, this is when my mom told me what happened. It was hard for me to see the wound because she's really fluffy, but there was blood. I called the pet hospital the next day and we set up the next possible appointment for her. I took Coconut to her doctors appointment and they fixed her up, but because of the nature of the injury, it was really serious (infection in the bloodstream through torn rectal) and the vet bill totaled to $950.
I spoke to the doctor and nurses/receptionists at the pet hospital and they advised me that the best way to handle the situation is to assume the best in our neighbors that they will take responsibility for their dogs actions, as in pay for the medical bill. I wrote them a very courteous letter explaining what happened and included photos of Coconut's injury and the vet bill, including the doctor's report of her injury. They weren't home so I slid the letter between their door handle, I included my phone number, email and address. I gave them the letter on Friday and waited a few days. I hadn't heard back from them so yesterday (Monday) I went to their house again to try to talk to them. The wife came to the door (husband wasn't home) and immediately had a very aggressive demeanor, asking me what I wanted. I explained to her that I left a letter for her and that her dog bit my dog etc., she said she never got the letter and asked me what I wanted from her, so I told her I'd like her to be responsible for her dog's actions by paying for the medical bills. She laughed at me and said there's no way she'd pay for it, and said to take it up with her husband, then slammed the door on my face. She didn't even ask me if Coconut was okay :(
I did some research into small claims court, and if I can't resolve this situation with the husband I fully plan on taking them to court. I am an aspiring attorney, en route to law school so I'm actually pretty excited to be able to present my case in front of a judge. I work at a law firm, but this firm does not deal with personal injury type cases, so they can't really help me much in that area.
Has anyone gone through this before? What happened? Do you have any advice for me? Anything important that I should include aside from the initial letter I sent them, photos, medical records and bill, and my mom's testimony? When I present my case to the judge, all the facts have to be crystal clear, please let me know if there's something that confuses you or is unclear.
Coconut is a dear part of our family, we have no other pets but her. I cried all night when I found out what happened and my heart hurts just thinking about the pain my little baby had to go through. She is a lot better now, but not 100% her old self yet.
Sorry this happened to your pet. It's pretty terrible that these owners are acting this way. Do you have any lawyer friends that would be willing to type something up on official stationary (regardless of whether they would actually represent you)? I think perhaps this official looking piece of paper might scare these owners into contributing some money and then you can avoid the hassle of court and other things. I don't have much advice to offer beyond that, but you could also check your local ordinances regarding reporting animal bites, etc. In some places it is required that people file reports when such incidents occur b/c the animal must be quarantined for a short amount of time (the biter, not the bitee); this will also start a paper trail for you should you decide to pursue the small claims route. (*One caveat: if this dog has a history of biting, it is possible that it could be put down. I just wanted to point this out b/c I know some would rather not be a party to this unless the dog is truly dangerous.)
Poor baby. I hope she is feeling better soon. I hate when people won't take responsibility for their pet's behavior. The first thing you need to do is file a police report. And that neighbor better hope her dog has never bitten anyone before. The police can fine them for not being in control of the dog or for violating leash laws depending what they are in that neighborhood. After filing the police report I would talk to the husband. Maybe it's his dog and the wife (aside from being a beeotch) has nothing to do with it. The police can advise you how best to handle this. Sometimes they will go talk to the owner. If they still won't pay I would take the police report and all the other info and have a lawyer write an official letter to the owner advising of your future actions (you can probably do this yourself if you are allowed to use office stationary). Send it registered mail so they have to sign for it. That is usually enough to scare an owner into being a responsible pet owner. LOL Good luck. Remember first thing is the police report. It really should have been filed that day but since you have pics and the vet bill it should be ok .
I would want to find out if their dog has a current rabies vaccination first of all. Your dog could be in danger. By all means file a report and then go to small claims court. It's pretty open and shut. Hope your dog is feeling better soon. I hate irresponsible pet owners.
First of all, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I went through the same thing last January and my case was just resolved last week.
What I would do if I were you is:
1. Send another letter like you described with the bill, pictures, and typed out letter that you willbe taking them to small claims if you don't receive compensation in 7 days. Send it through registered mail so that they have to sign for it and you have a record it was sent.
2. If you don't receive a check in the next 7 days, file the paperwork for small claims. I don't know where your at, but most of it can be done online. You will have to do the actual filing at the county courthouse.
3. Hire an official processor to serve the papers.
4. Go to court, etc.
I did all the following and right before we had to go to court, her personal lawyer contacted me and said that he had a check for the full amount waiting for me.
And I'm not surprised that those people in your case didn't care. The lady whose dog attacked mine had no remorse, never apologized, and had a file folder FULL of violations from the local shelter officer.
Oh, PLEASE file a report with your local shelter and police. Make those idiots know your serious. Again, I'm so sorry. I know how horrifying the experience can be. :(