Case Study: Municipalities Held Liable
Evidence of a new trend has started -- Animal Control is being held liable for dog bite-related fatalities. It is ISCRA's position that municipal Animal Control units are universally under-staffed, under-funded, often lacking temperament-evaluation training, and devoid of the risk assessment tools they need. Nevertheless, Animal Services agencies are still being tasked with protecting the public from dangerous dogs, and being held accountable if they do not.
Here's an article from Virginia:
Family of Spotsylvania County woman killed by dogs seeks damages
By AP - Updated 12:18 p.m. ET, Thurs., March. 5, 2009
Roanoke,VA - SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (AP) - The family of a Spotsylvania County grandmother who was fatally mauled by a neighbor’s pit bulls in 2005 is seeking $5 million in a civil suit.
A Circuit Court jury is set to begin deliberations on Thursday in the claim brought by 82-year-old Dorothy Sullivan’s children. They argue the Spotsylvania animal control officers are at least partly to blame for her death because they had been told of the threat of the neighbor’s roaming pit bulls.
Lawyers for the animal control officers said they did respond to Sullivan’s calls.
The deaths of Sullivan and her small dog resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of the pit bulls’ owners and Virginia laws regulating dangerous dogs.
Kenneth Phillips, well-known dog bite lawyer, states:
"In Tennessee, attorney Wayne A. Ritchie and I are representing the family of Jennifer Lowe in a similar case. Jennifer was fatally mauled by pit bulls on November 12, 2007. The same dogs had been declared dangerous by the animal control department and, after that, had to be shot at when they attacked a police car. For these and other reasons, we contend that the animal control department contributed to Jennifer's horrifying death because of their failure to confiscate the dogs. One week ago, the judge ruled that our case against animal control was solid on paper (i.e., the court ruled in our favor when government lawyers tried to have the case dismissed prior to the production of evidence at a hearing or trial).
"The lesson to animal control agencies throughout the USA: doing your job means taking dangerous dogs off our streets. If you do not do your job, you will be held accountable when people are injured or killed."
Municipal Liability Dog-Bite Cases:
In Canada, a lawsuit against Uxbridge, ON, Animal Control will go to court this fall.
Walker v. County of Los Angeles -- citizen loses thumb while helping ACO capture dog
San Diego woman says county didn't protect public: dog bite victim sues -- http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080131/news_1m31dogs.html