It is estimated that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and 800,000 of those bites result in injuries serious enough for a trip to the hospital. In most states, dog owners are responsible for the damage their pets do. But what if the owner was deceived into adopting a pet by the policies put in place by a shelter? Does that become a product liability case, or is it still a matter of owner liability?
Dog bites are serious business, and recent discovery shows that the most common types of dogs to cause serious injuries are rescue dogs known for dangerous behavior. Among the rescues that cause the most serious injuries, rescued pit bulls are becoming notorious for disfiguring or even killing their new owners, or the friends and family of those new owners.There have been changes in the animal shelter business that are causing government agencies to look deeper into what is going on and making changes.
The Effect Of The “No-Kill” Rule
The “no-kill rule” has become a spotlight issue for animal shelters lately, and it has caused shelters to deceive people to save more animals. There has been a push towards more “no-kill” shelters in the country, and that push is being fueled by the idea that people will not donate to or adopt pets from a shelter that euthanizes animals. To avoid the stigma and financial damage that comes from being known as a shelter that euthanizes pets, many shelters are taking a “no-kill” approach, but in an irresponsible way.
Many people do not realize that rescue animals will often get transported from one shelter to another to increase their chances of getting adopted. In some cases, this even involves sending animals across state lines. As far as product liability goes, every shelter that handles a dangerous animal is obliged to alert any other shelter the animal gets sent to of the animal’s dangerous past. The shelter that finally gets the animal out for adoption is obliged to warn the new pet parents of their animal’s past. However, many shelters, in an effort to get around the “no-kill rule,” are deceiving pet owners and the price being paid is steep.
Toddler Mauled By Adopted Dog
Lucas Harrison is a toddler in Clinton, Iowa who was mauled by a dog that was said to be a Boxer-Labrador mix but turned out to be a Pit Bull with a past. Kris and Ashley Greene adopted the dog and took their new pet to the home of their friends, Tyler and Holly Harrison. It did not take long for the dog’s violent tendencies to come out, and he attacked Lucas by biting him in the face. The toddler will now need several surgeries to survive, including surgery later in life to have false teeth put in where his natural teeth were ripped out, and he will be deformed for life.
The shelter that sold the Greene’s the dog did not indicate that the dog was a Pit Bull, and did not warn the Greene’s of the dog’s violent past. The Harrison’s are not only suing the Greenes, but they are suing the Louisiana shelter that had scheduled the dog to be euthanized but then decided to ship the dog to Iowa instead, and the Clinton, Iowa Humane Society that allowed the dog to be sold under false pretenses.
A Call To Label Rescues Honestly
As more shelters try to reduce the number of dogs they euthanize, the fear is that more rescued pit bulls will be shipped around the country without the proper warnings attached. This case was treated like a typical product liability case with the retailers involved being sued for misrepresenting the product, just as you would expect in a regular defective product case. The Greenes were brought into the civil suit because they owned the pet that attacked, and that falls in line with the dog bite laws found in most states.
Until the policies surrounding the movement of rescue dogs to new shelters are changed, this problem will continue to become more prevalent. For now, the product liability laws in each state protect victims in civil court. But there is a strong movement to start labeling rescue dogs properly at each shelter they are housed to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening anymore.