by personal injury attorney and Dog Bite Law blogger Kenneth Phillips:
“We are an animal rescue group that does standard fostering and adopting,” a rescue group recently e-mailed to me. “One of our volunteers named John was fostering a boxer at his house,” the rescue group representative explained. “He has a roommate who brought a female friend to the house. The dog came up and nipped her on the leg.
“Apparently the dog may have barely broken the skin,” the rescue said. “Our understanding is that she didn’t have health insurance and her medical bills were about $2,800. Our insurance company has denied the claim because John had signed our “Release of Liability Waiver/Foster Agreement.” John doesn’t have renters insurance or canine liability insurance. We want to do whatever we can to help him. We feel that the woman is looking for a payday and working the system. Can you help us?”
“The victim needs the help”
“As you know, I represent dog bite victims,” I responded. “The lady was injured by the dog, and you want to help the owner/harbor/keeper of the dog rather than the victim, who has the medical bills. To me, this whole situation is backward and reflects a lack of concern for the injured party which I find to be repugnant. It is the victim who needs the help, and ironically if all you people want to keep the heat off John, you can do so by contributing toward her medical bills.
“The other thing that bothers me in the scenario is that your organization of concerned individuals purchased insurance covering yourselves, but not the fosters who are actually taking care of the dogs — people like this guy John whom you all profess to be concerned about. In the big picture, your organization is putting unwanted, abandoned and possibly defective dogs in the homes of fosters without protecting either the fosters or the adopters of the dogs. To me, this is immoral and unethical and there should be a law against it.
“People who have not used common sense”
“Similarly, John himself put people at risk by exposing them to this dog, and he did this knowing that he had no insurance. It is a basic responsibility of dog ownership, in my opinion, to have insurance covering injuries and damages inflicted by a dog that you own or an unknown, unwanted, abandoned and possibly defective dog that you are fostering.
“Everywhere I look in this situation, I see people who have not used common sense, have put the welfare of questionable dogs ahead of the welfare of friends and neighbors, and have caused damage to at least this one victim. This is taking place at a point in time where anybody with true concern about shelter dogs has learned through news reports of all the damage that they have caused to people, principally because of “humaniacs” who expose bad dogs to unsuspecting individuals and families. Throughout the country, there are criminal prosecutions going on at this very moment for this kind of bad behavior on the part of so-called good people who are kind and loving toward animals and completely disregard the safety of their friends and neighbors by placing bad dogs with families who don’t know any better.
“Refuse to enable”
“You will not get any help from me because I refuse to enable you. You need to understand that you have to be careful with dogs that come to you with an unknown history, signs of abuse, or a track record of viciousness or going from one shelter to another.
“You need to use good judgment when it comes to placing these dogs back in the community, even with fosters. You need to have insurance that will cover not only your organization but also your fosters and all victims of the dogs that you place into our community.
“Similarly, you also need to make sure that all of your fosters have adequate insurance. And you also must institute a policy of not adapting out a dog to a family that does not have renters insurance or homeowners insurance that would cover injuries or damages inflicted by your canines.”
After getting my message, and deliberating overnight, the rescue organization in question e-mailed again to me, explaining that they have “shut it down completely.”
I am not against rescue groups. I want rescues to be responsible toward the fosters and the families that adopt. I don’t want the term “rescue dog” to come to mean a dog you have to be rescued from.
[Kenneth Phillips may be reached c/o www.dogbitelaw.com]
(See also: Why wasn’t California pit bull fatality sent to county grand jury?, Anatomy of a disfigurement by a misidentified shelter pit bull, and our submenus of case histories at Pit bulls & public safety and Pit bulls & the humane community.)