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Manhattan Judge Orders Psychiatric Exam for Dog That Bit Toddler

September 28, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ A large dog named Becky Bear was ordered to see a psychiatrist for biting and disfiguring a 2-year-old girl.

State Supreme Court Justice David B. Saxe ordered the exam Friday to determine whether the 7-year-old Akita had vicious tendencies before it attacked Sarah Engstrand on Sept. 5, 1994.

``Her nose was removed from that dog bite,″ said Guy Gabizon, lawyer for Wende A. Doniger, who is Sarah’s mother. ``When she turns 15 she’ll have to have more cosmetic surgery. That’s when the face stops growing.″

The dog belongs to Sara’s grandmother, Claudia Engstrand, whose insurer has refused to settle a dog bite claim, Gabizon said.

On the day of the attack, Gabizon said, the family was celebrating Sarah’s second birthday and Engstrand’s homecoming from the hospital.

He said that when Mrs. Engstrand entered the house, the dog ran to her, and leaped onto her sore chest and ribs. Mrs. Engstrand’s husband shoved Becky Bear down and the Akita bit the toddler.

Gabizon said that to collect damages in dog bite cases in New York, a plaintiff must show that the dog is ``vicious,″ that it had bitten someone before.

Allstate Insurance, holder of the Engstrands’ homeowner’s policy, has refused to settle, Gabizon said.

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