herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Dear Virginia...

Dilemmas

Dear Virginia,

I was recently cycling past a neighbour's house when his dog came out and bit me. It wasn't just a nip. Eventually, as it became infected, I had to get hospital treatment. I feel angry because the dog's owner, an elderly man who's lived there for years, didn't seem to appreciate the severity of the attack, and rather brushed it off. I didn't go to the gardaí because I didn't want the dog put down, but I still feel resentful. Was there anything I could have done -- or should do now -- to make this man feel more responsible? Yours sincerely, Ed

Virginia says . . .. It's understandable that this poor old guy might not feel responsible. He's probably deeply attached to this animal and therefore wants to brush its behaviour under the carpet.

You, however, have no such attachment to the beast, so isn't it up to you to be the responsible one and report the incident to the gardaí?

There's no reason to think it will automatically be put down. They might just come round and give the man a good talking to and insist that it's not let out of the house except on a lead.

But where you are irresponsible is in thinking only of yourself. Who knows, this animal may have a long string of offences to its name. Perhaps it has already attacked small, defenceless children.

I would report this attack to the gardaí and see whether the dog has form. If you don't want to go further than that, I'd visit the man yourself and throw the words "lawyer" and "gardaí" into the conversation. Explain that although you don't particularly want to sue him at the moment, you need reassurance that measures are being taken to prevent it happening again.

Dog bites can be serious. Don't let pity for what appears to be a lonely old man overshadow the real issue here: preventing it happening again to someone else.

Readers say:

don't be squeamish

When it happened to me some 15 years ago I was advised by a lawyer friend to keep a daily diary, listing things I usually did that either I couldn't do or were more difficult. If I couldn't drive my car, the cost of a taxi might be a reasonable charge on his insurance.

Inform the authorities. You may not be the first person to be attacked by this dog. I turned out to be the fourth.

Don't be squeamish about what happens to the dog. The fact that this man probably relies on his animal companion doesn't entitle him to endanger the public.

martin, By email

put it in writing

You should not let the matter rest. My feeling is that you should write to him in extremely firm terms, telling him that he owns an unreliable, if not a downright dangerous, dog, and that at the time you were tempted to report the incident to the gardaí.

Something you may still do if he does not reassure you that the dog will be kept under his control

dr murray, by email

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