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Dog Bite Case Law: Breed Specific Assumptions

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In this West Virginia case the Virginia Court of Appeals decided in euthanasia cases the courts should not be relying solely on breed specific assumptions, such as “vicious” breed categories. The Court found the experts couldn’t agree on the issue. My friend Bailey is a good example. She looks scary to most people who don't know her. She scared me when I first met her. But she is as gentle as a kitten, though much larger than one.

Dog Bite Cases – Breed Assumptions and the Rules of Evidence

Tinkerbell, a female pit bull terrier, injured a neighbor child who was playing in the yard of Michael and Kim Blatt. The circuit court ordered that Tinkerbell, the family pet of the Blatts, be euthanized pursuant to West Virginia’s vicious dog statute. In making its decision, the circuit court relied on a presumption that pit bull dog breeds are inherently vicious. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s destruction order, holding (1) because extensive debate exists over whether scientific evidence and social concerns justify breed-specific presumptions, courts may not, upon judicial notice, rely solely upon a breed-specific presumption in ordering the destruction of a dog pursuant to W. Va. Code 19-20-20; and (2) the facts and circumstances surrounding the bite in this case did not support the circuit court’s determination that Tinkerbell is dangerous within the meaning of section 19-20-20.


State v. Blatt

Court: Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Docket: 14-0757

Opinion Date: June 16, 2015

Category: General

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