Pit bull cross, chihuahua owners must split costs for dogfight damage, judge rules

Eac side responsible for $577.43 towards injuries in Comox Valley incident

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Two Comox Valley dog owners have both been found to be negligent with a dogfight in May 2017 following a civil court decision.

Earlier this year, tribunal member Shelley Lopez found Chihuahua owners Kalei Jeffery and Michael Wright along with pitbull cross owner Dawn Anderson (respondent) were both equally at fault for the dogfight and equally at fault for the applicants’ damages (Jeffery and Wright) following the fight in Courtenay.

During the late evening of May 16, 2017, Gracie, the pitbull cross, was involved in a fight with Chihuahuas Romeo and Cara.

At the time, and noted in the evidence and analysis, all dogs were off-leash and in a common parking lot that was part of the dog-friendly condominium complex. The dogfight did not occur on private property.

Lopez pointed out she accepts that “all parties loves their pets … I find that this dispute is not about pitbulls versus Chihuahuas and which breed may be more aggressive. Rather, I find that this dispute is about negligence and which dog caused the injuries.”

In speaking to liability, Lopez said all dogs were off-leash, and had the dogs been leashed, the dogfight could have been avoided.

The applications noted Gracie attacked their dogs as they were on their way out. They note the dogs had been in their arms, but that Jeffrey put Cara down “for a second” so Cara could go to the bathroom, and that is when Gracie went after Cara.

Lopez said the applicants do not explain why they did not have Cara or Romeo leashed, even if Cara needed to go to the bathroom.

In contrast to the applicants’ submission, the respondent said she heard dogs barking aggressively and saw Cara charged and barked aggressively at Gracie and that Gracie then ran toward Cara. The respondent said Gracie did not bark at all.

A police report stated Romeo and Cara got small scratches and bites when “they ran up to the pitbull,” and that Romeo and Cara sustained minor superficial injuries.

The applicants do not deny that Cara barked and charged at Gracie before the dogfight.

Lopez found Cara provoked the fight and was in a position to do so because she was not leashed.

Anderson said it is unknown which dog bit Jeffrey. She added her father separated Cara and Gracie by pulling Gracie by the collar into the house. The applicants said they tried their best to release the dog, and in doing so, Jeffrey’s dominant right hand was bitten severely by Gracie.

Lopez noted Jeffrey does not explain why she chose to put her hand into the dogfight, rather than using a stick, her purse, kicking or some other method that would be less like to cause injury to herself.

“Nothing turns on Gracie’s lack of bite or attack history, given I have concluded the respondent was negligent in Gracie being off-leash. I do find that Gracie likely bit Ms. Jeffrey, rather than one of her own dogs doing so. However, I also find Mr. Jeffrey was contributorily negligent in causing her own hand injury to stop the dogfight, particularly bearing in mind that she should have had her dog leashed.”

In terms of damages, the May 17, 2017 emergency vet bill for treatment on Cara and Romeo was $768.46.

Lopez found the Anderson must reimburse the applicants half of the bill – $384.23.

As for lost wages, Jeffrey claimed $3,000 which was equivalent of three months of lost work.

Jeffrey attended a hospital emergency room for the dog bite injury.

Evidence presented by two brief medical notes did not indicate a significant absence from work occurred or was expected.

“I find Ms. Jeffrey has not proved she needed to be off work for three month due to the dog bite. On a judgment basis, I find that based on the two medical notes before me, Ms. Jeffrey has proved she missed two weeks of work due to the dog bite,” explained Lopez.

Based on income evidence, Lopez found Jeffrey suffered $375 in lost wages and is entitled to half that amount – $187.50.

Along with pre-judgment interest, Lopez ordered Anderson to immediately pay a total of $577.43.

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