Liability-and-animal care rulings

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, August/September 1996:

MADISON, Wisconsin––In a ruling
of import to shelter staff, the Wisconsin
Supreme Court by 4-3 decision on June 27
reversed a Milwaukee County Circuit Court
jury award of $81,445 to part-time worker
Cheryl Armstrong, of Thistlerose Kennels in
Greendale, who was bitten by a Siberian
husky belonging to John and Ann Mack in
January 1991. Armstrong sued the Macks
and Milwaukee Mutual Insurance. Writing
for the majority, Justice Janine Geske argued
that Wisconsin law defines a dog owner as
anyone who owns, harbors, or keeps a dog.
In boarding the Macks’ dog, Thistlerose
became the dog’s owner for legal purposes;
Armstrong became the owner’s agent.
The ownership statute “is rendered
meaningless,” said Geske, “if one who in the
course of employment exercises control over
and provides care for a dog is not found to be
that dog’s keeper.”

The Connecticut Appellate Court
reached the same verdict on July 17, overturning
a Waterbury Superior Court award of
$40,000 to David Murphy of Naugatuck,
who was bitten while taking care of a dog for
his friend Charles A. Buonato Jr. The
Appellate Court held that since Murphy had
full control of the dog, he was for all practical
purposes the owner.
In a case of similar claims, but
involving a dolphin instead of a dog, a threejudge
panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of
appeals on June 20 upheld a lower court
award of $10,000 to a painter who was bitten
by a dolphin at the now defunct Ocean World
sea park in Fort Lauderdale. The original ruling
held the painter 90% responsible for the
bite, according to former Ocean World staff,
but gave him limited compensation.
In still another liability case of note,
the Vermont Supreme Court in early July dismissed
a suit filed against Michael Perry, of
Vernon, on behalf of Cory Zukatis, who in
1993 at age 3 slipped through a two-strand
wire fence and was kicked unconscious by
Perry’s horse. The court held that use of a
standard fencing method does not constitute
negligence, and declined to say whether or
not Vermont should adopt an “attractive nuisance”
law which could have extended
Perry’s liability.

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