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© 2018 Mark Zintel, Inc.
Pet Liability and
By Mark F. Zintel July, 2017
©Mark Zintel, Inc. 2017
We all love kids, don’t we? Um… don’t we? This
assumption leads some parents to believe that
everyone within screaming distance of their
restaurant table, shopping cart or spot at the beach
enjoys their children’s misbehavior as much as the
parents do. The same can be said for some pet
owners, more specifically, dog owners.
We pet owners love our furry “kids,” but we need to be aware that not all other humans enjoy the company of a
pet. Many of us have come in contact with people who absolutely loathe being in the presence of even the most
domesticated pet -- rats, lengthy boa constrictors, iguanas and other non-traditional species, notwithstanding.
These animal avoiders are everywhere: in nearby homes, our parks, airports, city sidewalks and, among the worst
locations, elevators and condos. The latter location is usually home to at least one condo commando who didn’t
notice that he/she was buying into a pet-friendly community and who now wants to make the pet owners’ lives
miserable. Pet haters will go to great lengths to make a point, including legal action.
According to data published in 2015 by The Insurance Journal, awards to plaintiffs for injuries from dogs shot up
from $324,200,000 in 2003, to $530,800,000 in 2014. By the end of 2016, claims for dog-related cases surpassed
$600,000,000 for that year, more than one- third of all homeowner liability claims. You may have found some
insurers will not cover liability for homeowners who have breeds deemed to be “risky.” For pet owners who don’t
have liability coverage (including renters), legal/monetary exposure can be great. Some pet-friendly landlords now
require tenants with pets to carry adequate liability coverage and include the landlord as an additional insured.
Sadly, this is the result of a litigious society and irresponsible pet owners, combined. With advertisements
seemingly everywhere urging victims to cash in, why take the chance? You can take a few simple steps to keep
your pet -- and yourself -- out of the doghouse.
Unless you’re somewhere out in the middle of nowhere or in a confined, fully enclosed area, keep your pet on a
leash. It’s hard to find a municipality these days that doesn’t require this by ordinance. But even “in the middle of
nowhere,” an unconfined dog can cause trouble. Our family would be guilty, as charged. As a kid, we lived in a
rural neighborhood and our Beagle, Snuffy, had the run of the place. Beagles generally aren’t aggressive, unless it
comes to knocking over garbage cans and decorating the landscape with trash (no one used plastic garbage bags in
those days). But our neighbors had two larger hunting dogs of a breed also not known for attacking humans. But
they did run up on another neighbors’ back porch one evening and tag-teamed the family cat, dismembering it
while the family, including young children, watched from the dining room table. Sincere apologies followed, along
with immediate containment of those dogs. Back then, litigation between and among the great unwashed wasn’t a
recreational activity and luckily for the dog’s owners, the notion of a lawsuit never came up. But today, it’s a
Be vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. If you step on the elevator and the person in there recoils and
moves away, keep that leash tight and stay in your space. Your dog usually can sense that a person like this isn’t
one to oogle, anyway. But why push it? If you are suddenly in the midst of a hoard of little kids, retract that leash
and move with caution. A playful dog can suddenly jump and knock a small child over, causing injury. Completing
even basic obedience training is advisable if you take your dog out in public places. Our Golden LOVES children.
And most children dial in to her immediately and want to share the love. But we always make her stay, sit and
keep a hold on her while the kids approach for a love fest. And we ask the parents if they are OK with dogs before
any contact. For responsible pet owners who unwittingly find themselves in trouble, there are now attorneys who
will stand up and defend the pet owner. (Insert att’y quote here). If you need guidance in this area or would like to
read more, you can visit (Insert client name/link here).
You are the last line of defense for you and your pet. In worst-case scenarios, some authorities will seek and win
the death penalty for the offending pet, in addition to monetary awards and fines from the pet’s owner. Always be
aware of where you and your pet are AND where your pet is when you are away.