Woman sues Hoonah over drug-enforcement dog bite

Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A woman is seeking more than $50,000 from the city of Hoonah, claiming police negligence allowed a drug-enforcement dog to bite her in the face last year.

Shawna Howland required 13 stitches to treat the dog bite she sustained on July 19, 2003, according to a lawsuit filed by Juneau attorney Richard Nelson last week.

Juneau attorney Dennis Bailey, who serves as Hoonah's attorney, said he had no comment on the case. He said Frank Kozoil, an Anchorage attorney, had been hired to defend the city. Kozoil had not yet filed the city's response to the suit Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Nelson wrote that Howland sustained a deep cut on her upper lip, which required the stitches. The bite also cut the tip of the nose and her forehead - as well as causing "severe emotional trauma," he added.

Howland left a Hoonah bar looking for a friend, whom she saw talking to a police officer and petting a dog police used for drug enforcement, according to the suit. The dog was unleashed and equipped with a shock collar.

Nelson wrote that Howland, who had experience with several large dogs, bent down to pet the dog as her friend had done, but the dog lunged at her and bit her face in one snap.

The suit claims the city was negligent by allowing a dog with a history of aggressive behavior to interact with people in a public setting and by failing to train officers to control it properly.

It seeks "in excess of $1,000" in economic damages, including medical bills and lost wages. It also seeks "in excess of $50,000" to compensate Howland for pain and suffering and emotional distress and trauma.

Nelson wrote that specific damages would be proven at trial.

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