Television anchor, Kyle Dyer, was bitten in the face by a 85-pound Argentine mastiff named Gladiator Maximus during an interview this week. The dog was the scene of a heroic rescue in icy waters after falling into the water while chasing a coyote. Firefighter Tyler Sugaski who rescued the dog is shown here with the owner 39-year-old Michael Robinson. The video is below.
Robinson’s potential liability raises some interesting questions. He was cited with failure to have his dog on a leash, allowing a dog to bite and failure to have a vaccinated dog. The dog ran into the lake because he was not on a leash in the first place and Robinson allowed him to chase the coyote.
Under the common law, Robinson is protected by the “one free bite rule.” The rule is a bit of a misnomer, as reaffirmed recently in Georgia. It does not take one bite to put a pet owner on notice to attach strict liability. It is sufficient if a person knew or had reason to know the vicious propensity of the animals. If there were prior incidents or complaints, the case could resemble the case of lawyers Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel who were both sued civilly and convicted criminally in a horrific dog attack case.
There may be suggestions about a vicious propensity in the breed, though I have never seen such presumptions with mastiffs as opposed to breeds like pit bulls.
Chasing a coyote is not necessary evidence of a vicious propensity since most dogs chase animals. However, there may be other prior evidence of the propensity. If not, a case would be handled in negligence. Yet, there could be a plaintiffs’ conduct question in how the television lights and set would affect an animal and the failure of the studio to have better animal control precautions.