The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant animal shelter could not be held liable for a dog bite, even if the shelter breached its duty to inform plaintiff, who adopted the dog, of the dog’s vicious propensities. The plaintiff observed the dog’s vicious propensities after bringing the dog home. Therefore, the animal shelter’s breach was not the proximate cause of the bite:
“For [two hundred] years … , the law of this state has been that the owner of a domestic animal who either knows or should have known of that animal’s vicious propensities will be held liable for the harm the animal causes as a result of those propensities” … . “If such animal be delivered [by the owner] to another, he [or she] must inform such person of the animal’s vicious characteristics, so far as known, or ascertainable by the exercise of reasonable care. If such information be given, or the person to whom the animal is delivered knows, or before injury ascertains, the vicious character of the animal, the owner is not liable” … . The rationale for such rule is self-evident—informing a person who takes possession of an animal about the animal’s vicious propensities allows that person to take precautionary measures to protect himself or herself and others from harm caused by that animal’s vicious propensities.
Here, even if the defendant breached its duty to disclose the dog’s vicious propensities known to it, or “ascertainable by the exercise of reasonable care” at the time of the plaintiff’s adoption … , by failing to inform the plaintiff that the dog had previously bitten someone in the face, any such breach was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The dog’s displays of aggressive behavior during the three and a half months the plaintiff owned it, and the fact that it first bit the plaintiff on July 13, 2012, gave the plaintiff sufficient knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities before she was bitten again on September 3, 2012 … . Tighe v North Shore Animal League Am., 2016 NY Slip Op 05807, 2nd Dept 8-17-16
ANIMAL LAW (EVEN IF ANIMAL SHELTER FAILED TO INFORM PLAINTIFF OF THE DOG’S VICIOUS PROPENSITIES, THAT FAILURE WAS NOT THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE DOG BITE; PLAINTIFF HAD AMPLE OPPORTUNITY TO OBSERVE THE VICIOUS PROPENSITIES PRIOR TO THE BITE)/DOG BITE (EVEN IF ANIMAL SHELTER FAILED TO INFORM PLAINTIFF OF THE DOG’S VICIOUS PROPENSITIES, THAT FAILURE WAS NOT THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE DOG BITE; PLAINTIFF HAD AMPLE OPPORTUNITY TO OBSERVE THE VICIOUS PROPENSITIES PRIOR TO THE BITE)