Landlord & Dog Keeper Liability
You and your family are going to Florida for family vacation, so you drop your dog, Skip, off at the local pet motel. They promise to take good care of Skip; take him on long walks and give him treats every day. Unfortunately, while you are in Florida, a pet motel employee accidentally drops Skip’s lease while on a walk and he attacks a young child causing severe injuries. Are you responsible for Skip’s actions? (You know this wouldn’t have happened on your watch.) Or is it the fault of the pet motel for being irresponsible?
Typically, a dog’s owner is legally responsible for any harm that their dog causes. However, in most states, the term “dog owner” means not only the true owner of the dog, but also includes a person who possesses, keeps, or harbors a dog. A “keeper” is someone who is caring for the dog, has custody of the dog, and control of the dog. Harboring a dog means providing lodging, shelter or refuge for a dog. The length of harbor required to be responsible for the dog’s actions varies from state to state.
Dog Groomers, Veterinarians, and Pet Hotels
From time to time, pet owners entrust others with the care of their pet. The liability of dog groomers, vets and pet hotels can become murky because there are several factors that can come into play. Evidence that a dog keeper or someone harboring a dog knew of its vicious propensities and still allowed it to come into contact with the victim is strong evidence that the person should be held liable. Whether you will be responsible for Skip’s actions while he was in the care of the dog motel will depend on your state’s laws.
It is rare for a landlord to be found liable for injuries inflicted by a tenant’s dog, but it is possible. Leasing a property to a tenant who owns a dog is not in itself enough to pursue the landlord. However, courts have held the landlord liable in two situations: (1) when the landlord knew that the dog was dangerous and could have had the dog removed; and (2) when the landlord “harbored” or “kept” the tenant’s dog by having some control over the care of the dog. Other factors that may bolster the argument for landlord liability include complaints from other tenants about the aggressiveness of the dog, failure to remediate a problem regarding the dog, failure to remove the dog after reports of injury, and failure to enforce apartment rules and regulations.
Regardless of who is held responsible for the dog, locating insurance is a critical aspect of making a recovery. Unfortunately, making a recovery without insurance is extremely difficult. If the dog owner or dog “keeper” has homeowners or renters insurance, your dog bite attorney will be able to pursue the insurance company for your injuries.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help
Hiring an attorney who has experience with dog bite cases will ensure that you maximize your recovery. Injuries from a dog bite attack are often severe and life changing. Choose a dog bite lawyer who knows the laws specific to your state and has a record of success. Consider these points when choosing an attorney.
This article was submitted by the Indianapolis law firm Keller & Keller. View the profile of attorney James Keller.