Utah family uses dog bite case to fuel fire for state law reform

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah -- A Utah family is facing legal action after their dog bit a contractor who came into their backyard unannounced. Now they're using their case to fuel the fire for reform to state laws.

Titan is a 100-pound Rottweiler and loving family pet.

When Taylor Sanford heard his dog had bit someone, he was shocked.

“I’ve got a one-year-old little girl and the worst thing he does is kiss her on the face,” Sanford said.

In six years Sanford has never had an issue with Titan. Still, he always took precautions.

“Just safe practice, I mean I’ve got a Rottweiler; they’re a scary dog,” he said.

When he needed some sprinkler work done, he asked the contractor to tell him when they arrived.

“Just let me know when you are back so I can put my dogs in,” said Sanford reading the Facebook message he sent to the contractor just before the bite happened.

“He responds saying, ‘Okay, thanks Taylor.’” He said reading the contractor’s response.

Despite this Facebook exchange, the contractor told Fox13 that Sanford made no attempt to advise them of the dogs or tell them that they needed to call first.

Sanford said, the contractor never let him know and when they showed up, he was out dropping his kids off at daycare.

“There was a bite, it wasn’t anything egregious by any means,” Sanford said.

“It was this big,” he said holding his hands together to show the size of the bite.

That night Sanford received a picture of the bite and this message from the contractor, “I have been bit hundreds of times. A dog is territorial and only protection. It's natural. Stuff happens."

A few days later the pictures kept coming.

“I told him, ‘I’m really sorry you got bit, but this was on you,’” Sanford said referencing a Facebook message he had sent.

“As soon as I put the blame on him he just flipped a switch,” said Sanford.

At that point, Sanford said the contractor began threatening him, referencing Utah’s dog bite laws.

The law states that any dog owner is responsible for injuries committed by the dog, regardless of the circumstance.

“It doesn’t matter what I do, I could take as many safety precautions as I want,” Sanford said. “But if somebody jumps over my fence, and my dog defends his territory, I’m still liable.”

The contractor did contact an attorney and alerted Sanford via text saying, "Sanford I have met with an attorney to help me with getting compensation for my injuries, doctors’ bills, and lost wages."

He also told Sanford if he didn’t provide his insurance information he would be forced to sue him.

"If you do not provide me with your insurance information it forces me to sue you which I do not want to do," the contractor wrote.

Sanford said when he spoke to him on the phone regarding an amount, they wanted $4,500.

“Medical bills lost work. He said because he couldn’t work for a couple of days he got behind and lost a couple of other contracted jobs,” Sanford said.

Sanford said the contractor told him he was unable to work for two days, but based on the worker’s Facebook page, he was on jobs.

“There’s so many things that, from my point of view, he’s blatantly lied about to get some extra money,” said Sanford.

When we spoke with the company, they seemed to have a different amount in mind, claiming they wanted less than 12-hundred dollars.

"All we wanted was to file a claim for the amount in damages (which were below $1200) for time lost and the medical charges. Is that fair to ask if one homeowner’s dog just bit your leg?" the contractor asked.

Sanford is now working exclusively with his insurance company, and while he hopes they don’t settle, he believes there is a more significant issue at hand.

“Money is money,” he shrugged. “Whatever happens with my case I just want the laws in Utah to change and adapt."

Now Sanford has reached out to state lawmakers, “to make it, so there is a clause that protects dogs and their owners for somebody who comes into their property without their permission."

Sanford has started a GoFundMe page, to cover any costs he may owe the contractor.

Despite how much money he ends up owing, Sanford intends to use any excess funds towards his lobbying efforts, to change these strict dog bite laws.