Service Dog Banished After Biting Six-Year-Old Girl

On behalf of Albert Buzzetti & Associates, L.L.C. posted in Personal Injury on Thursday, May 12, 2011.

A recent biting incident involving the trained helper dog of a nine-year-old cancer patient and a young neighbor resulted in a six-year-old girl suffering a severe facial laceration and a service dog being banned from the River Vale neighborhood. As young Isabelle Gernhardt was treated for her injuries - getting more than 100 stitches in her face in the process - Ava the dog was removed from the home of Paul, Patricia and Molly Kimball.

A Bergen County judge was originally slated to decide whether or not Ava should be declared vicious and put down, but a compromise was reached between victim Isabelle's parents and the dog's owners that allows the dog to live out her days in another neighborhood. No information has been released about the conditions in Ava's new home or if additional precautions will be taken to prevent Ava from biting again.

How Did This Attack Happen?

There are conflicting reports as to how exactly the service dog and young Isabelle came into contact. Paul Kimball - Ava's owner - claims that he was holding Ava on a leash while Isabelle played with the dog. He further states that Ava was startled as he pulled back on the leash and accidentally scraped Isabelle's face with an exposed tooth.

Isabelle's mother, Elizabeth Gernhardt, has a different perspective, however. She says that her children were not allowed to play with Ava anymore following an incident last year in which her son's face was nicked. She claims that Ava wandered onto her property unleashed and unattended before the attack.

What Now?

Both sides do seem to agree, however, that Isabelle is not to blame. Neither party has made any assertion that Isabelle provoked the dog in any way. Unfortunately, Isabelle is traumatized by the incident; she is currently undergoing counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and faces the daunting prospect of multiple surgeries to correct the damage done by Ava's bite.

The settlement reached between the Kimballs and Gernhardts specifically did not preclude legal action from being filed in this case. An attorney representing the Gernhardts stated that the family will likely file suit to recoup expenses for Isabelle's mounting medical bills.