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Law looks to leash dog attack policy

Breslin’s bill would make owners accountable in all dog attacks

Frankie Flora, a dog attack victim from Poughkeepsie, bonds with Sen. Neil Breslin over football as mom Maria Flora looks on. The family is speaking in favor of a bill sponsored by Breslin to make dog owners liable for medical expenses resulting in dog attacks.

Frankie Flora, a dog attack victim from Poughkeepsie, bonds with Sen. Neil Breslin over football as mom Maria Flora looks on. The family is speaking in favor of a bill sponsored by Breslin to make dog owners liable for medical expenses resulting in dog attacks. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— According to the proposed legislation, about “4.5 million people are bitten annually by dogs and about 750,000 of those victims seek medical attention.”

New York is a “one-bite state” for dogs. This means the dog owner is not liable for the dog’s first bite or injury unless the own was negligent or knew the dog was dangerous. The proposed law would change the standards and make owners responsible for all medical costs incurred from a bite or attack at all times.

“I’ve thought for years that with so many more dogs interacting with the rest of the community that if in fact a dog bites, that there should be strict liability for the payments of medical expenses,” said Breslin.

The senator said he hopes the law would make dog owners more vigilant.

“If we stood on a corner today versus 20 years ago, we would see more dogs and leashes and we want to make sure those remain to protect residents,” he said.

Breslin said the bill didn’t come about because of any one case, but was rather in response to a general uptick in dog attacks in recent years. The law, if passed, would be known as Frankie’s Law.

In the Floras case, Maria Flora said homeowners insurance covered very little of the medical costs and because of the current law the family would not have been able to sue. Her cousin was not negligent because the dog had never shown aggressive behavior and they did not know it would attack. If the law had been in place, the dog owner would have been responsible for Frankie’s medical bills.

Frankie Flora is now doing well and is through with most medical procedures. It is unknown as he grows how his previous injuries will effect his development and if more surgeries will be need. As the summer approaches, his life revolves around football. Breslin told Frankie he played the position of center is school and the two bonded over the game.

Maria Flora said Frankie was also the 2010 ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and he continues to do volunteer work for the group.

It is unlikely the law will pass this year, with only days left in the legislative session. The Floras said they would continue their outreach until the bill is passed.

“Maria and Frankie are truly inspiring,” said Breslin. “I look forward to continue working with them on this issue so that all dog attack victims receive the justice they deserve.”

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