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Dog attacks could lead to premises liability

Property owners in Delaware County, Ohio, have a legal duty to keep their property reasonably safe for visitors. If a property owner creates a dangerous situation or knows of a dangerous condition on their property, and does nothing to fix it or adequately warn of the danger, then any parties injured as a result may be able to recover damages through a lawsuit.

One such lawsuit filed last week named a husband and wife in Lewis Center, Ohio, along with the Delaware County Humane Society. The complaint alleges that the Humane Society ignored recommendations by veterinarians and animal behaviorists that certain dogs at the shelter should not be adopted because of aggressive tendencies.

The couple adopted dogs from the shelter, and the lawsuit cites two instances specifically where one of the couple's dogs, Sadie, attacked a man and a teenager in the neighborhood. Both attacks required medical attention. The husband was charged with failure to confine an animal in both of those situations.

County auditor records indicate that the couple own five dogs. Two of the five, Sadie and Bandit, showed signs of aggressive behavior at the shelter in 2009. Bandit was adopted twice previously but was returned after he bit, snapped, or growled at his adopted families. The attorney who filed the lawsuit argues that the shelter intentionally gave dogs to this couple so that they wouldn't be euthanized, even when vets recommended euthanizing.

At issue is whether the couple breached the standard of care for property owners. If they knew the dogs were dangerous and failed to provide adequate warning or take reasonable safety precautions, they could be liable for the damages to the injured parties.

The lawsuit also attempts to show liability on behalf of the Humane Society for knowingly placing dangerous dogs with the couple instead of having the dogs trained or put down.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Dog shelter, couple sued over attacks by canines," Allison Manning, April 12, 2012

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