Suit Against Rescue Organization Allowed to Move Forward

Posted on May 12, 2015

A recent animal care case – Lawrence v North County Animal Control Center – is moving toward trial on the adopting  family’s claim of negligence and misrepresentation on the part of the shelter from whom the family had obtained the dog. In this case the adoptive family was told that although the dog, Brutus, had exhibited food aggression, it was unfair to label him as “aggressive.” The family then adopted Brutus and, in the following 17 days, the Plaintiff was bitten four times with the fourth bite causing severe injuries to both of Plaintiff’s arms. Plaintiff then sued the shelter for, among other things, negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation.

The shelter moved to dismiss the claims – relying on the general waiver of liability set out in their contract. Their motion was denied as the trial and appellate courts agreed that the Plaintiff reasonably relied upon the shelter’s statements about Brutus’ temperament. The Court also noted that the waivers of liability in the adoption contract did not extend to cover this situation as they did not specifically state that the adopter was waiving claims resulting from the shelter’s own negligence.

The case serves as a caution to those in the animal welfare community and shelters may want to review their practices, their insurance policies and their release waivers to make certain that they are sufficiently protective.

The case is here: