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Dog Attack: Teem Mauled by Rottweilers - A Legal Perspective

On Thursday night, a 14 year old teenage boy was sent to the hospital in critical condition after being severely attacked by two rottweilers who were guarding a premises in Revere, Massachusetts behind the Northgate Shopping Plaza around 5:45pm. It appeared that he had hopped over a barbed wire fence surrounding the property just prior to the attack. He was accompanied by a 12 year old who had not hopped the fence and was able to call police. Police had to shoot one of the dogs in the leg and the fire department had to spray the other with a firehose in order to dislodge the dogs from the boy's body. The boy underwent surgery at the hospital and is still in critical condition. The dogs have now been taken into custody by the Animal Rescue League.

Violent dog attacks such as this initally spark outrage among the local community. It is very tragic what happened to the young boy. Justice must be sought. Those in favor of breed specific legislation often take these opportunities to promote their cause claiming that rottweilers and pit bulls and other certain breeds of dogs are inherently dangerous and should be banned or restricted. However, emotions aside, from a legal perspective, there is little to no recourse for this poor boy.

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140 Section 155 clearly states:

Section 155. If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.

The corporation owning the premises had erected barbed wire fences to keep people out of the restricted area. They were also using the dogs are guard dogs to prevent trespass. This teenager chose to hop the fence and trespass at his own risk. The dogs were doing the job they were hired to do and as tragic as this incident was, it would be very difficult to prove negligence on the part of the corporation because the boy was negligent in trespassing onto the restricted property.

Had the boy been under the age of seven, it would be a different story as the law recognizes that young children do not possess the knowledge or power to understand what is dangerous or off limits. It is therefore the property owner's responsibility to ensure that their property is free of attractive nuisances such as swimming pools without a fence, trampolines with panels, and other such instances which might attract a child onto the property.

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