Articles Posted in Dog Bites & Animal Attacks


A Mount Sterling teen required medical treatment after being bitten by an unleashed pit bull in Montgomery County, Ky. last week. Ellen Gray, mother of 18-year-old Robert Gray, stated her son was walking in their Mount Sterling neighborhood when he suddenly felt something clamp down on his hand and realized it was a neighborhood pit bull.
The dog’s owner, Paul Arnett, contends his 14-year-old pit bull was not an aggressive dog and would not have become so unless she was provoked or felt threatened.

Kentucky Revised Statute Chapter 285 states that owners of dogs are strictly liable for any and all damages caused when their dog attacks an innocent victim. Strict liability is liability without having to show negligence. Therefore a dog owner can be held strictly liable for damages of a dog bite victim regardless of whether the owner exercised ordinary care or not.

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Officials in Flemingsburg, a northeastern Kentucky city, are considering a ban on pit bulls. The city’s Mayor, Marty Voiers, reported that the city has received numerous complaints about the dogs attacking and chasing residents. The current ordinance allows the dogs but requires that they be registered.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously voted to ban pit bulls from the city. However, a second vote is needed before the change would become final. The City Council will meet again on June 10. If the ban is approved a second time, it will take effect thirty days later.

City ordinances such as these are important in dog attack cases because they allow the victims to bring negligence per se claims against the owners. This means that the owners may be found negligent as a matter of law based solely on their violation of the local ordinance.

A dog bit a child’s hand Sunday evening in the 1700 block of Gaulbert Avenue, causing the child to be rushed to Kosair Children’s Hospital. The local news is reporting that the child, who’s name is not being released, may lose a finger as a result of the attack.

The dog was transported to Louisville Metro Animal Services where it will be held pending evaluation.

Reports do not indicate whose dog bit this child, but Kentucky has enacted dog bite statutes that make owners strictly liable for all damages caused when their dog attacks an innocent victim. (Kentucky Revised Statutes, Chapter 258). Last May, I argued to the Kentucky Supreme Court in an effort to have the court correctly interpret the laws to include liability for landlords who permit dogs to remain on property they own. My client was 8 years old when he was brutally attacked by a dog across the street from the property where the dog was being kept.

Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Benningfield v. Zinsmeister. I represent Brandon Benningfield, who was 8 years old at the time he was mauled by a dog across the street from the house where the dog was living. The dog (a large, male Rottweiler) was living in a home that was being rented from landlords (the Zinsmeisters) who lived right next door. The dog kept getting out of the yard, and the Zinsmeisters knew it, but no effort was made to make the tenants get rid of the dog or otherwise restrain it prior to Brandon’s attack. When Brandon was attacked, the landlords denied any and all liability.

My argument to the Kentucky Supreme Court was that the legislature, in KRS Chapter 258 (the “dog bite” statutes) meant to extend liability for dog attacks to landlords who “permit dogs to remain on or about property owned by them.” The statute clearly and unambiguously provides that any landlord who does so becomes an “owner” of the dog and “shall be liable” for any damages the dog causes to an innocent victim.

The Kentucky Supreme Court agreed with me that a landlord can be a dog owner in those circumstances and, thus, strictly liable for a dog attack victim’s damages – overturning years of bad opinions issued by lower courts misinterpreting the dog bite laws. Unfortunately, the Court restricted a landlord’s liability to attacks that occur on or about the rental property. Because of the Court’s imposed restrictions, the Zinsmeisters will not be held in any way responsible for what happened to Brandon.

On Thursday, May 12, Vanessa Cantley, attorney and partner with Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger PLC, argued to the Kentucky Supreme Court on behalf of dog bite victims across the Commonwealth. Her argument makes the first time the new dog bite laws, found in Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 258, will be interpreted by Kentucky’s highest court.

Vanessa argued that the plain language of KRS Chapter 258 holds a landlord who permits a dog to remain on rental property he/she owns strictly liable for any damages “caused by the dog.” The landlord would be jointly and severally liable will all other statutorily-defined owners of the dog for damages the dog causes. However, if the landlord does not permit the dog on the property, then the landlord is not liable under this statute; nor would the landlord, or any other statutory “owner,” be liable for injuries caused by anything other than dog – i.e. damages caused by the Plaintiff him/herself.

Vanessa’s client, 8 year-old Brandon Benningfield, was walking home from a neighbor’s house when a Rottweiler dog got out from under a fence at a rental home, ran across the street, and mauled Brandon on the sidewalk, tearing the flesh from his scalp, face, arms and legs. The dog was kept in the backyard of the rental house with several other Rottweilers and had gotten out of the yard on several occasions. The landlords lived right next door to their rental property and also knew the dog was getting out, but never moved to evict the tenants or otherwise have the dogs removed.

Legislatures around the country are beginning to recognize the dangers that vicious dogs pose to individuals, particularly children and the elderly. Recently, Texas lawmakers tentatively approved a bill which seeks to punish owners of dangerous dogs. The new law would make a dog attack a first-degree felony if the victim is a child or elderly person. The Texas House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 123 to 7.

In Kentucky, the owner of a dog that attacks someone may be subject to civil liability if the dog causes damages. Under both the theory of negligence or strict liability, an injured person may have a cause of action against an owner of the dog.

Later this week, on May 12th, Vanessa Cantley will argue in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court regarding the interpretation of Kentucky’s dog bite statutes KRS 258.095 and 258.235. (For a more in-depth view of that case click here: ) Our firm wishes her the best in her pursuit to help thousands of victims across the Commonwealth.

Vanessa Cantley, attorney and partner with Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger PLC, learned this week that the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in her case, Benningfield v. Zinsmeister. Vanessa represents Brandon Benningfield, who was 8 years old when he was the victim of a vicious dog attack in Jefferson County, Kentucky. She has been working for the last four years to get justice for Brandon and, on May 12, 2011, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear her arguments, ask questions, and then decide whether Vanessa will succeed in her efforts.

Kentucky’s dog bite statutes read in part as follows:

“Any owner whose dog is found to have caused damage to a person, livestock, or other property shall be responsible for that damage.” (KRS 258.235)

Every day, innocent Kentuckians are attacked by dogs who belong to individuals who rent homes or apartments. Most times, these dog owners have not obtained renters’ insurance and have no other means to compensate victims for medical expenses (including reconstructive surgery) lost time from work, and pain and inconvenience. This leaves innocent victims holding the bag. And if the innocent victim does not have health insurance and is treated in the emergency room, this means that all of us are left holding the bag for someone else’s negligent handling of their animal.

Kentucky’s dog bite laws are written to hold all dog owner strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs. This means both primary dog owners (who the dog belongs to) as well as secondary owners (such as landlords who are aware their tenants have a dog on the rental property) would be liable for all injuries caused by the dog. Unfortunately, Kentucky’s courts have consistently failed to interpret the dog bite laws as they are written.

Vanessa Cantley, attorney and partner with Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger PLC is currently litigating a case to the Kentucky Supreme Court in the hopes that the Court will recognize the strong public policy reasons for interpreting and enforcing the current dog bite laws just as they are written. It’s time that all those in position to prevent a vicious dog attack be held accountable when one occurs.

We have learned about another victim of a vicious dog attack in Kentucky. Karen Gillespie, a 53 year-old retired librarian was found mauled to death in a field near her home in White Mills, Kentucky on Wednesday. Hardin County Animal Control removed a dog from an adjacent property that is believed to be responsible for Ms. Gillespie’s death.

Vanessa Cantley, partner at Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger in Louisville, has represented dozens of victims of vicious dog attacks and is currently litigating a case to the Kentucky Supreme Court asking it to hold dog owners even more accountable for injuries caused by their animals. She states: “My heart goes out to Ms. Gillespie’s husband and her other friends and loved ones. This is a terrible tragedy and could have been prevented. Kentucky’s dog attack laws have been interpreted several different ways over the last few years, but it is my position that the laws are written to hold dog owners strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs – i.e. if their dog causes injury or death to an individual, the owner is liable for the damages regardless of whether they knew the dog had vicious tendencies. I hope the Kentucky Supreme Court will agree with me and decide to interpret the laws as they were written by our legislature.”

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, or you would like to learn more about the legal rights of victims injured by dangerous dogs in Kentucky or Indiana, please contact Vanessa Cantley directly at (502) 587-2002 or e-mail her by clicking this link: e-mail_Vanessa.


In what has disturbingly become an all too common occurrence, a six year-old Bowling Green, Kentucky girl sustained injuries to her face, jaw and lip from an attack by a pit bull. She was reportedly as a neighbor’s house when the attack occurred. The girl is now recovering at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville and the pit bull has been quarantined.

Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident, the owner of the property and animal, if different, could be held responsible for the girl’s injuries. Kentucky law regarding dangerous animal attacks has been in flux recently.

For more information on this subject and the rights of those injured or killed by dangerous animal attacks, including dog bites, contact Louisville, Kentucky attorney Will Nefzger by clicking on this link: e-mail Will. You can also find out more information about me and my firm by clicking on the Website link at the top of this page and going to my bio page.