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Family suing California city after dog bite leads to man's death

While people in California suffer dog bites on a daily basis, in the vast majority of cases, the dogs involved are owned by private citizens. A unique lawsuit recently filed, however, seeks damages from the owner of a police dog: the city of Hayward, California.

The incident in question took place last May. Officers who were in pursuit of robbery suspects sent their police dog over a wall into a yard after it stopped and stared at the wall. Officers had followed the dog after it appeared to be following the scent of the robbers.

However, the person on the other side of the 8-foot wall turned out to be the owner of the yard, an 89-year-old man. The dog attacked the man, biting him on his left leg and dragging him across the yard.

The man was severely injured in the incident; ultimately, his leg had to be amputated after gangrene set in. His condition continued to deteriorate and he died in July, two months after the incident.

The man's family is now filing a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging that the man's rights were violated because he was an innocent bystander on his own private property when police sent the dog over the fence into his yard without knowing what was beyond the fence. The family contends that the city should have known that the dog was dangerous and might bite an innocent person.

While this is not a typical dog bite case, the basic concept is the same: a defenseless person was bitten by an animal that was not properly supervised.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Hayward sued over police dog bite on man who died," Henry K. Lee, April 4, 2012

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