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Sadly, animal attacks and bites occur all too frequently. Sometimes it's a sneaky raccoon slipping in the pet door, sometimes we're bitten by snakes trying to protect our pets, and other times we're bitten by snakes that are our pets. And then there are the times when our pets bite a stranger or even a family member.
Liability in all these instances can vary, depending on the ownership or care of the animal and where the attack happens. Here are three recent legal developments when it comes to animal liability:
A recent Insurance Information Institute showed a sharp increase in dog bite claims over the past decade, from around 14,500 claims filed against homeowners due to dog bites in 2006 to over 18,000 in 2016. Additionally, the average payout on a claim increased by over $11,000 during that same period, totaling over $600 million in 2016. Analysts believe the severity of the attacks has led to the increase in claims and payouts.
While much of the focus on pet liability is on dog bites, many states have also stepped up statutory regulations on cat ownership. California, for example, requires all animal shelters to sterilize felines before allowing their adoption, and allows feral cats to be euthanized without the same waiting period prescribed for domestic animals. And Alabama allows shelters to euthanize cats impounded for rabies immunization if their owner has not claimed them after seven days.
And what happens if the attack isn't perpetrated by the usual cat or dog? Owners of wild animals are generally subject to strict liability for attacks, making owners responsible for injuries caused by their pets regardless of whether the owner was at fault. But a property owner cannot be held liable for wild animal attacks on their property, as long as a property owner does not own or keep a wild animal.
If you've suffered an injury from a pet or wild animal, contact a local animal attorney.