Oregon Suit Alleges Attack by 19-Year-Old Dog

March 27, 2013

An Oregon couple and their landlord are being sued for almost $500,000 for an alleged 2011 attack by the couple’s old dog on a passing pedestrian.

But one of the dog’s owners said Harley, the dog, never attacked the woman. The woman lost her footing when the friendly, then-19-year-old dog approached her, owner Larry Burnett said.

Harley the dog is now 21, blind and deaf.

The matter will be decided in Lane County Circuit Court, where the lawsuit was filed last week by an attorney for Holly Higgins, who claims that a dog owned by Larry and Jenny Burnett ran up and jumped on her from behind as she passed the Burnett’s home, The Register-Guard reported.

Higgins didn’t see or hear the dog coming and said she was knocked hard to the pavement, breaking a wrist, injuring her neck and shoulder and causing severe pain and distress

Higgins, who lives nearby, was walking when the incident occurred on March 21, 2011, the suit said. The suit charges that the dog has a “vicious and dangerous nature” and usually was kept in a wire cage. But it claims the dog was allowed to run loose on the day of the incident, even though it was being treated for a painful skin condition that the suit says could have made the dog even more aggressive.

Owner Larry Burnett sees it differently. He said the dog is an extremely friendly pet that is very happy to be with people and gentle with children.

Harley was only kept in a cage because, as a border collie, he wanted to run out and herd the sheep that sometimes pastured on adjoining properties, Burnett said.

Higgins had passed the house many times and seen Harley, who barked in greeting but never chased her, he said.

“The dog never did touch her,” he said.

The suit claims Higgins has suffered “emotional and physical scarring” from the incident that has left her unable to enjoy her usual activities. Her wrist injury has hurt her ability to continue her work as a writer and made it hard to work at a computer, to maintain her home and property and do yoga and other activities, the lawsuit claims.

Higgins has had two surgeries on the wrist, which is still at 50 percent disability, as is her neck, the suit said.

The lawsuit seeks a little more than $75,000 to cover medical costs and other economic damages and $400,000 for her pain, disability and lower quality of life.

No trial date has been set.

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