Dog bite expert & animal behavior specialist

Richard H. Polsky, PhD, CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Dr. Richard Polsky - The Dog Expert

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$1.1 million in record settlement in bull mastiff dog bite attack in Illinois

The largest settlement for a dog bite injury case on record in Illinois was recently obtain by the plaintiff from American Family Bull-MastiffInsurance Company. The case settled for $1.12 million in July, 2013. The lawsuit stems from a vicious attack by bull mastiff on a 15-year-old boy.

The facts of the case are as follows: The boy was attacked by 120 pound male, bull mastiff named Kong in Zion, Illinois in 2011. The incident happened when the dog escaped from its chain-link fence enclosure, and attacked the boy who was with several friends riding bikes. The attack was sustained: it lasted for about 10 minutes. Witnesses say that the dog refused to let go. The attack was eventually stopped by a neighbor who lit a cigarette and put it to the dog’s nose. The boy sustained punctures and lacerations to his scalp, shoulder,right arm, buttocks, and had significant  psychological trauma. He was hospitalized for a week.

The method in which the attack was stopped rather interesting: that is, by putting a lit cigarette to the nose of the dog. This was rather unusual and novel. However, other unusual ways of stopping a dog bite attacks, such as biting the dog, have been used with success, as previously reported on this website.

When a powerful dog is “locked” onto the body of a victim, as was in this instance, then any means of stopping the attack, including gunshot, is probably justifiable in a given set of circumstances. Gunshot, however, must be used with caution, and only used after all reasonable methods of stopping the attack have been tried. I mention this because I know of several well-publicized cases, one in Denver and another in Los Angeles, in which police officers have killed dogs with their guns for no apparent reason!

According to the website of the law firm representing the boy, Kong had a history of violence towards people. He had previously bitten one person, and had been reported to animal control on about eight occasions before the incident. The attorney’s website notes the previous settlements for dog bite cases in Illinois ranged from about $400,000-$835,000. Hence, this settlement for $1.1 million represents a record.

Bull mastiff’s have been implicated in a number of serious dog bite attacks and fatalities on people in recent years.  Males, most often the gender involved in serious dog bite attacks on people, may weigh as much as 150 pounds. Not surprisingly, the breed is being increasingly used as a guard dog or “territorial protector” by many. Some bull mastiffs, particularly those who are  not properly trained or socialized, not neutered, obtained from poor breeding lines, chained for long periods, and of the male gender, can be extremely dangerous and difficult to control by the average dog owner. Similar dangers, and other documented serious dog bite attacks and fatalities on people, exist with other mastiff breeds, such as the Cane Corso and the Presa canario.

Steps for dog bite prevention can be found elsewhere on this website.