Animal shelter could be liable for dog bite attack

There are times that truth in advertising is more important than others -- and that's the case with a shelter dog that had been labeled 'Boxer-Labrador-Mix" by the Louisiana shelter that also said he was "good with children."

The dog, named Emmett, turned out to be a pit bull. Not knowing this, his new owner introduced him to the home of friends where he bit their 15-month-old son on the face so severely that the child is essentially disfigured for life.

The new owner was cited for having a dangerous dog since pit bulls are on almost all the lists created by different municipalities of dangerous breeds or those illegal to have within city limits. However, the family of the injured child is only directing part of their lawsuit to the owners.

That part of the lawsuit is fairly standard. Iowa has strict liability laws that hold a dog owner liable when it bites a victim, even if the dog has shown no signs of violence before.

However, the lawsuit takes a creative twist in that it also names the Clinton Humane Society -- the shelter that sold the dog to its new owners -- for negligence, a breach of express warranty, and product liability.

The lawsuit points out that the horrific injuries could have been avoided if the foreseeable risks of harm had been addressed before the new owner took custody of the animal. There should also have been warnings against bringing the dog into a home with other pets or small children. Perhaps most important of all -- the new owners should have been warned that the shelter lacked the capacity to issue an express warranty that the dog was friendly to children.

This lawsuit could have repercussions nationwide because it is treating a pet as a commodity that is subject to product liability laws -- which could put everyone in the chain of commerce responsible for the "defect" in the dog that caused it to attack.

Product liability cases are often complex and there are new avenues being made all the time. Anyone seriously injured by a product that was misleadingly advertised as safe should contact an attorney for advice.

Source: City Watch, "Adopted Pit Bull Attacks Toddler - Animal Shelter Sued for ‘Product Liability’," Phyllis M. Daugherty, April 03, 2017

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