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Surviving a dog attack: Five crucial steps that could save your life
Jim Crosby, a dog behavior and aggression expert, shared tips with USA TODAY on how to protect yourself if a dog attacks you.
Anastasia Riedel, USA Today
HACKENSACK — A woman who was attacked by a pit bull more than two years ago has settled with the dog’s nonprofit owner for $1.62 million, her attorney said.
For Carol Olsen, a cake decorator from Midland Park, the vicious attack resulted in the loss of a vital body part.
“When she went to push the dog off her leg, he bit off her right thumb,” said Christopher DiGirolamo, the victim’s attorney. “The thumb cannot be reattached.”
DiGirolamo said the injury initially made it impossible for his client to do her job at the bakery at Wyckoff’s supermarket, but she returned to work when she recovered months later. She still cannot make the delicate flowers and other decorative ornaments she made before the attack, he said.
Losing her thumb also had lasting effects on her daily life, DiGirolamo said. He said that household chores and simple tasks such as opening jars and wearing jewelry were beyond her ability.
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DiGirolamo said the entire Olsen family is relieved the problem has been resolved. “After representing Carol, and getting to know her as a person, I am very confident that, despite her disability, she will return to her passion,” he said.
Olsen filed a lawsuit against Eleventh Hour Rescue, a no-kill shelter and pet adoption agency that owned the dog, and the man who was caring for him when the attack occurred, in state Supreme Court in January 2022.
The nonprofit, based in the Flanders section of Mount Olive Township, is run by volunteers. Her website states that she rescues cats and dogs on death row. Many are rescued at the eleventh hour, she says, when they are scheduled for euthanasia at other shelters.
The bull in this case, named Alamo, was being cared for at a townhouse on Mulberry Drive in Mahwah at the time of the attack in March 2021. DiGirolamo said his client was there as an invited guest.
Edward Toro, the rescue’s lawyer, did not respond to an inquiry about the settlement.
The lawsuit alleged that the rescuer and the nursery owner were responsible for the attack because Alamo was not caged or gagged.
State law states that the owner of a dog that bites a person is liable for damages, regardless of the animal’s “ferocity” or the owner’s “knowledge of such ferocity.”
The rescue blamed the nursery owner and entered a countersuit to demand that the nonprofit be compensated and provide liability insurance coverage. He later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, court records show, because he was uninsured.
According to figures released in April by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm, U.S. insurers paid $1.1 billion in claims for “dog-related injuries” last year — a 28% increase from 2021.
More than a third of these insurance claims were filed in five states. California, Florida, Texas, New York and Michigan topped the list, with 6,176 claims.
Philip DeVincentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the top stories from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.