On August 3, 2019, Los Angeles Animal Services advertised a certain pit bull like this: “He is a cuddle bud, he is a doll and a greater walking partner. He loooves (sic) dogs and people. He is just the perfect dog. “
But on June 29, 2020, the records for the same dog say: “Dog is on hold pending hearing because of a dog bite on a 4-year-old girl. The girl sustained injuries to her face.” (For more details, see Phyllis Daugherty, “Pit Bull Adopted from LA Animal Services Shelter Bites Child in Face,” https://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/cw/animal-watch/21412-pit-bull-adopted-from-la-animal-services-shelter-bites-child-in-face.)
For years, too many innocent Americans have been mauled and killed by dogs which were adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups. (See, i.e., Merritt Clifton, “How a Shelter ‘Blackjacked’ Adopters with the Nanny Dog Myth,” https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/05/05/how-a-shelter-blackjacked-adopters-with-the-nanny-dog-myth/.)
Shelters have been known to erase a dog’s history of biting, change its name, and misidentify its breed in order to trick unsuspecting families into adopting vicious dogs. (Merritt Clifton, “Albuquerque City Shelter Released Dangerous Dogs,” https://www.animals24-7.org/2015/09/06/albuquerque-city-shelter-released-dangerous-dogs/.)
“Do animal shelters have a responsibility to only adopt-out dogs that are safe?” I was asked today.
The answer is yes, of course. It goes further than the way this person put it. A shelter or rescue has the following 3 duties:
- Find out the dog’s history of behavior as well as its medical history,
- Record all observations of its behavior and medical condition while in the organization’s custody, and
- Give the entire record of history and observations to potential adopters of the dog.
There are states that have specific statutes mandating this, such as Virginia and California. Violating these statutes will result in lawsuits by the victims or even criminal charges against the shelters (see specifically the Virginia statute making “[v]iolation of this section . . . a Class 3 misdemeanor.”). The heartbreaking story that prompted Virginia to enact its statute is found at M. Clifton, “Virginia Bars Shelters & Rescues from Hiding Dogs’ Bite History,” https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/05/30/virginia-bars-shelters-rescues-from-hiding-dogs-bite-history/
Even where there are no specific statutes, however, the general law of fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, negligence and warranty apply.
Additionally, other more general criminal statutes can also be applied — keeping a mischievous (vicious) dog, manslaughter, and child endangerment, which are just examples.
Watch my video, AVOIDING LIABILITY WHEN WORKING WITH DOGS, if you are in the business. My video package also contains the forms, waivers and other documents which shelters and rescues should use to protect themselves from liability and avoid harm to the public. Here is the URL: https://www.dogbitelaw.com/product/avoiding-liability-when-working-with-dogs/