Martha Muro, a 26-year-old animal control officer lost part of her thumb in a Los Angeles dog bite accident when she was on the job. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the May 14, 2009 dog attack occurred when Muro was making a follow-up visit to a house on Live Oak Street to ensure that a dog owner had cleaned up “excessive dog feces” on his property. As Muro was talking to the owner at the front door, two pit bulls that were in the side yard, began lunging at a chain-link gate. Muro retreated from the front yard, but the dogs escaped, broke through a hole in a front gate.
A male pit bull grabbed onto Muro’s baton and pushed her to the ground. The dog was “going for her face and neck,” officials said. Muro was able to break free after a neighbor got help. The male pit bull was turned over to authorities by its owner and euthanized. Tests are underway to determine if there are any medical causes for the dog’s aggression including rabies. The second pit bull, a female, has been quarantined for observation.
My heart goes out to Martha Muro, the animal control officer, who was involved in the pit bull attack as she was performing her job. Apparently doctors are still evaluating whether the severed thumb section, which was found later, can be reattached. I wish Muro the very best for a quick and complete physical as well as emotional recovery.
This Bell Gardens dog attack has happened days before the start of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is from May 17-23. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year. About one-fifth of those dog bites are severe enough to require medical attention. Those who are most vulnerable to dog attacks are young children, the elderly and postal service employees.
In this particular case, if the newspaper report is accurate, it seems to me that the owner of the dog should be held responsible for Muro’s dog bite injuries. Since she was on-the-job at the time of this dog attack, Muro will also be eligible for workers compensation benefits. California has a “strict liability statute in dog bite cases. California’s Civil Code Section 3342 states: “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
The animal control officer was apparently at the owner’s property to enforce the municipal code and to make sure this individual was being a responsible dog owner. Obviously, the dogs got away because the owner did not take adequate steps to restrain them. I also wonder why a neighbor got help for Muro and the owner didn’t take any steps to help Muro. The dog’s owner in this case should be held liable for Muro’s personal injuries. Muro would be well advised to contact an experienced Los Angeles dog bite attorney to better understand and exercise her legal rights and options.