Great Danes Kill Ohio Woman

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This week, I taught (with our esteemed visiting Professor Luna) animal-related torts, including the “one-free-bite rule.” One question that came up in class was whether the size of the dog could be treated as knowledge of the vicious propensity of the animal. I explained that it did not correlate to viciousness and gave Great Danes as an example of a large but thoroughly gentle dog. Right on cue, a story ran that night of a woman in Ohio who was killed by her Great Danes. The case actually tracked some of the issues that we discussed in class with the notable exception of the breed commentary on my part.

According to CNN affiliate WLWT, Mary Matthews, 49, died of dog bites inflicted in her Clearcreek Township, Ohio home by her two Great Danes. She appears to have forced the dogs outside and, perhaps unaware of her injuries or delirious, she changed clothes and was cleaning up the blood when she collapsed and died. She had a history of alcohol abuse and was on medications — possible contributors to her death.

Notably, her husband Mark Matthews said that he wanted to get rid of the dogs which were rescue animals. They adopted them two years ago but one bit the husband. However, he was in the county jail when the attack occurred. He found her after his release. The dogs were euthanized after the incident.

Under the common law, dogs unlike wild animals are not subject to strict liability. As a domesticated animal, dogs are subject to a negligence standard. This led to the evolution of a “one-free-bite” rule where after a bite, the dog was presumed to be vicious and the owner was potentially subject to strict liability for future attacks. The rule is a bit of a misnomer. You do not get a free bite if the dog showed vicious propensities in other ways.

Ohio is one of the state’s that have preempted the one-free-bite rule by statute to use a strict liability rule. Thus, the dog does not have to be determined to be vicious before strict liability applies. You are liable from the first bite. The only exceptions are cases of trespassing or criminal activities or a crime against another person or cases involving teasing, tormenting, or abusing the animal.

31 thoughts on “Great Danes Kill Ohio Woman”

  1. If stray dog bit me, not a nip but a true bite, I’d drop him off at the pound and if the socalled wife objected I would invite her to stay there with him. You can see the sign of a weak man in that story. Weak people can be detected by animals instantly. They are easily mistaken for prey.

    I’ve had a rescue dog for 10 years and he only bit people he was supposed to. lol

  2. I have never encountered a vicious Great Dane. Anything is possible. They could have been abused, or very poorly bred, or perhaps a mix. According to this article, the husband noted that one of the dogs was vicious. Apparently, they used to fight with each other, and would turn their aggression on the person who separated them.

    This kind of aggression requires an experienced dog trainer or someone with a lot of expertise. You can’t just “love them out of it.” The dogs were not being cared for properly, as the back deck was described as having disappeared under all the feces. Was this just tracked into the house?

    There seems to be a lot going on here. Back deck covered in inches of dog feces. Husband in jail. Wife allegedly has a drinking and substance abuse problem. Dogs show aggression. This seems like it was a slow moving train wreck. I’m very sorry that she died, and wish it was prevented. Very sad. But there were a lot of problems in this home, apparently.

    I have had the misfortune to suffer from significant blood loss, myself. It does impact your decision center. Later, you find your actions and decisions a bit confounding, especially if they led to a delay in getting care.

    https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/local/fatal-dog-mauling-rescue-group-founder-says-great-danes-usually-sweet/XrnZFedZipioK93z2zwSlL/

      1. That’s a pittie mix. I saw that pic on a blog, and wasn’t sure if it was accurate. I wonder if Daily Star sourced it from the same blog, or if they verified its accuracy.

        Because that’s not a Great Dane.

  3. People are sometimes as tragically unrealistic about their pets as they are their children. I’m thinking of these single or divorced women with an autistic or mentally ill young adult son whom they buy a gun to “teach him responsibility.” Then he goes and shoots up a school. Or the “rescuer” of a vicious dog that kills the owner or a neighbor. Okay, I’m going to sound sexist here, but I don’t think single women should have custody of a mentally ill son. The judge should order the father to take him, whether he wants him or not. Sure, it’s easier for the father to put a check in the mail every month and left the ex-wife deal with the day-to-day problems, but women tend to delude themselves when it comes to their screwed-up kids, leading in some cases to horrific tragedy.

  4. Funny story; if you dig a little you can find pictures of the dogs. They aren’t Great Danes, they’re two dogs of obviously different breeds that look more like St. Bernards.

  5. I would imagine those dogs were treated horribly, because Great Danes didn’t get the nickname “gentle giants” by chance. They truly are gentle dogs.

  6. Appetites run amuck.

    A 49 year old married woman with a husband and son felt justified to have dogs provide what her husband and son could not provide. That is the underlying pathology in this story. The other presenting symptoms are confirmatory of the underlying illness.

    Americans appear incapable of having healthy, supportive and nurturing intimate relationships. The Golden Rule is missing, Their pets receive more attention than people, Social media, internet addiction, food addiction, stimulants and opiate addictions, appetites run amuck. Self-regulation is missing.

    If you do not love yourself you can not love others. The latter builds upon the former.

    America is paralyzed by self-imposed pathology.

    Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

    Lectionary: 487

    Reading Romans 13:8-10

    Brothers and sisters:
    Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
    for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
    The commandments, You shall not commit adultery;
    you shall not kill;
    you shall not steal;
    you shall not covet,
    and whatever other commandment there may be,
    are summed up in this saying, namely,
    You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    Love does no evil to the neighbor;
    hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110619.cfm

  7. We have a 17# rescue Dog that was openly adoring to females yet backed-into-a-corner-aggressive to myself and most other men. First time I started to pick him up I got a fairly good bite. Kids and a few other men got a pass, he actually jumped into their laps. By treating him with meal leftovers and kind words in a very brief 2 1/2 years he has come to trust and give me loving attention and accept tummy rubs. I assumed he had been abused, starved and threatened to a degree that was re-educatable as he only barks at all strangers now with enough trust to then approach and seek attention from most everyone…

    1. It could be a bad experience with men, or some dogs are just born that way. I used to house sit for a huge Rottweiler who loved all females, and would try to destroy any strange male. He had been deemed dangerous because he bit a workman. To me, he was a smush ball. Total sweetie. He was like an enormous teddy bear. I was not allowed to take him out for walks, because they couldn’t risk he’d do a second bite.

      If a stranger came to the door to drop off a package, he would try to go through the door. Literally. For some reason, he viewed strange males as a threat, and took his job of protecting his family, and all ladies on Earth, from that threat deadly serious. They had him since he was a puppy, and he had never been abused.

      I loved that dog, but he had special requirements.

    1. I read a different news article earlier this morning that had a picture of one of the dogs. It looked more like a pit bull. Now I cannot find that same article. Will post link once I find it.

      1. When I first did an internet search, I found that exact photo on a blog. I was not sure if it was accurate, or if someone was using a pittie’s image just to claim that they might not have been Danes.

        Because, you’re right, that is definitely a pittie mix. I just don’t know if they sourced the photo from that blog, which is questionable, or if it’s accurate.

        1. Mea culpa for not reading very, very carefully. The caption below the picture interwoven into that article says the husband’s name is Dale, not Mark. It is apparently a link to a separate dog attack. Argh!

          I guess neither dog in this article is a put bull mix.

          With the kind of conditions they were subjected to, I can’t really blame the dogs for being vicious.

  8. I am on my second rescue and both have been feral for a period of time. The current Chow is so territorial, my wife and I decided not to hand out Halloween candy this year. She hasn’t bitten anyone, however she can act like she really wants a piece of you, if you come to the door.

      1. FFS – yes, Chows can be dangerous and I would never recommend one to someone with toddlers. However, they are usually fine with adults.

  9. https://www.fox19.com/2019/11/04/clearcreek-township-woman-killed-by-her-own-dogs-coroners-office-says/

    Her husband actually told the officers that his wife’s daily routine consisted of taking prescription medications and then drinking herself into a stupor.

    They have a son. The son collected his 51 year old father from the county jail and they found Mrs. Matthews when they arrived home. Just out of puerile curiosity, I’d like to know what this man did to get himself arrested and jailed. I’m wagering it had something to do with activity while drunk.

    SMDH. Thoughts and prayers.

    1. My thoughts exactly! There is something more to this story. Why don’t the police don’t look further into the husband’s background? It’s so easy for them to write off this tragedy by buying the husband’s story without an investigation. It’s easy to throw empty beer cans and pill bottles around a house and use the convenient excuse of her being a “drunk”.
      I lost a sister to “suicide” after her excuse of a husband came and went from their house for two days before he “found” her. Other than autopsy results that did not corroborate the pathetic investigation, his written statement that she was depressed & a drunk was all they based their decision on.
      I hope she and her family get answers to this horrible incident. The sad truth is not that many cases are given the attention you’d see on an episode of forensic files, et al.

      1. I have no particular reason to believe he’s lying and since he was in the county jail, he likely has a hermetic alibi.

  10. I find the dog’s behavior mirrors the interest of the owner. Responsible owners tend to have responsible dogs. Here the owning couple appear to have a constellation of problems which could have contributed to the dogs’ behavior. Alcohol, drugs and jail don’t flag as a stable home life which all creatures need to thrive. Too bad for all the species involved.

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