Dog Bites and the Law: Adoption Organization Liability
Law Offices of David Drexler
Personal Injury Attorney, Accident Lawyer, Car Accident Lawyer
Adoption Organizations are Sometimes Responsible for Injury-Causing Dogs
Pet adoption should not require families to end up hiring a dog bite attorney. Transferring agencies are legally responsible for vetting and placing safe dogs.
As any dog bite lawyer will note, dog attacks and resulting injuries can have a devastating effect on multiple parties. The injured person - many are children ages 5 to 9 years old, with the next most common victims being postal carriers - can of course be physically and psychologically scarred. Owners (some say "human companions"), if different from the victim, may be perplexed at the dog's behavior and the consequences and be held liable. In some cases the dog itself may be euthanized, even if the attack was an unexpected and unprecedented aberration. In any case, a personal injury lawyer who specializes in dog bite injuries should be called.
But the shelter or adoption agency that supplied the pet can be held responsible as well. While the vast majority of such organizations - technically known as transferors - are staffed with sincere and well-trained employees and volunteers, mistakes are sometimes made in their adoption procedures that lead to dog attack injuries. Reputable, financially stable and well-managed organizations carry liability insurance to cover such instances, but they (and their trial lawyer) have a better defense if they do the following:
Establish transferring agent status - on paper. The adoption agency should not technically "own" the dog, but instead write up a receipt for all received dogs that defines the agency as a bailee or temporary caretaker.
Quiz previous owners and caretakers. Inquire of the former dog owners about past behaviors and relative dangerousness of the animal, in addition to other matters of health and wellbeing. Ideally, have an intake form that records this information as the dog is received.
Communicate what you know to adoptive families. Share, in writing, the information about the dog’s behavior, as observed and gathered from previous owners, with the adoptive new owners. Dogs with a known history of dangerous behaviors should be declared and the adoptive family should be warned.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 4.7 million people receive dog bites every year, about 800,000 of whom require medical treatment. In the U.S., 16 people die annually from dog bite attacks.
If you, a loved one or a third party was severely injured by a dog bite after adopting the dog in good faith, particularly if you were not advised of past violent or aggressive behavior by the dog, contact a personal injury attorney (particularly if they are experienced as dog bite lawyers) to discuss your case.
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