Eleven-year-old Frankie Flora of Dutchess County, New York was mauled by his cousin’s pit bull when he was only five-years-old. The vicious dog attack lasted nearly twenty minutes. The boy had to undergo more than thirty reconstructive surgeries and received approximately 1,000 stitches. Six years later, he continues to need reconstructive surgeries. Four sections of his head were torn down to the skull, and his right cheek was completely gone. As the medical bills mounted, his family quickly realized that the “first bite” rule had to change.
Under the “first bite” rule, dog owners are only liable for dog bites and dog attacks if their dog had previously shown a propensity for violence. In other words, every dog gets one free pass. Frankie’s cousin’s pit bull was recently adopted from a shelter. He had never attacked anyone before, so the Flora family could not successfully recover damages from the dog owner. Instead, Frankie’s family had to manage the pain and suffering of the accident, along with the financial difficulties of paying for high cost medical care.
Today, at age eleven, Frankie hopes to change the first bite rule once and for all. He has been traveling around New York with his mother to spread the word about the Assembly bill aimed to eradicate the first bite rule. The bill is being sponsored by Assemblyman Frank Skartados. Frankie stated his purpose in simple terms: if a person doesn’t get a free pass on assault, why should a dog owner and dog?
Statistics show that 4.5 million people are attacked by dogs each and every year. According to the Legislative Gazette, more than 400,000 children require medical attention due to a dog bite or attack. On average each year, 27,000 victims will require reconstructive surgery to treat the injuries sustained in dog attacks. Dog owners must take responsibility for their pets. Training must be a priority. Hopefully, if this bill is passed, it will have the effect of encouraging dog owners to take more responsibility, understanding that there will not be a free pass any more.