Was He Potentially Negligent Because His Dogs Were Free-Roaming or Because His Free-Roaming Dogs Were “Pitbull” and Rottweiler Mixes?

By Editor
In Dog Bite Prevention
Mar 20th, 2007
2 Comments
1568 Views

Update: Jose Hernandez was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide on March 22, 2007.

“He should have known better. He ought to have been aware of the unreliable and substantial risk that the dogs posed to their neighbors and their families”…

These are the words of Dan Cervenka, an assistant district attorney for Milam County, Texas. Milam County includes the town of Thorndale where in 2005 an elderly woman named Lillian Stiles was mauled to death by possibly as many as six dogs (five “pitbull” mixes and one Rottweiler mix) owned by Jose Hernandez. Hernandez is now on trial accused of criminally negligent homicide.

No one disputes that Stiles’ death was horrific. Nor would it surprise anyone if Hernandez was found to be negligent. But was Hernandez negligent? When Cervenka said “[Hernandez] should have known better” he meant that there is a reasonable expectation that if one’s dogs are not secured, which on the day Stiles was killed Hernandez’s dogs were not secured behind their chain-link fence, that there is the potentiality for someone to have gotten hurt or killed. In other words, it is negligent to let dogs of any breed free-roam. But with no leash law, which there apparently isn’t in the county, it’s not illegal to let your pets free-roam. (And now you know why we consistently push so hard for leash laws where there aren’t any, or enforcement of leash laws where they exist.)

What is even more worrisome is the second part of Cervenka’s comments: “[Hernandez] ought to have been aware of the unreliable and substantial risk that the dogs posed to their neighbors and their families.” Should Hernandez have been aware of the risk his dogs posed to the neighborhood because they were free-roaming or because they were “pitbull” and Rottweiler mixes or both?

2 Responses to “Was He Potentially Negligent Because His Dogs Were Free-Roaming or Because His Free-Roaming Dogs Were “Pitbull” and Rottweiler Mixes?”

  1. Charles Coffman says:

    Legally they don’t have a case in my opinion. Without the leash law they are freeing everyone to let thier dogs run loose the language he is using about breeds should be grounds for a lawsuit against him. I think the defendent may be in line for a law suit from the people that were attacked but I don’t think in this circumstance he is criminally liable. I knew of a case where a man got off an assualt charge after beating another guy up real bad. it wasn’t against the law in the town where it occured.

  2. Rik Smith says:

    The issue here is that the dogs were allowed to run loose – not what kind of dogs they were … Any dog, large dog, small dog, inbetween size dog can cause an injury to a human being, just by jumping up and knocking a person down, especially if the person is a young child or an elderly person – people riding bikes are also at risk .. dogs who like to run along side bikers can cause an accident or injury with play behavior.

    Leash laws, strongly enforced, would solve IMO at least 95% of the problems communities face with dogs (and cats).

    To blame one or a family or a type of breed is rediculous … bans are pointless, as soon as one breed is banned, another pops up to assume the accusation of being “dangerous.”

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