If your child is bitten by a rabid cat can you sue the local animal control services for a failure to protect your child from that cat?
You’ll find out in due course if you are able to follow a case which is going through the Allegheny County civil courts. In this case a child (a “minor”) is suing, through his mother, the local animal care and control services because the child was bitten by a black cat while trying to protect the family dog from the cat.
I presume that the child had to go to hospital to get the requisite jabs (shots) to protect against rabies because it was determined later that the cat had suffered from rabies. Further, this particular cat, we are told, had a history of attacks on other individuals. Most importantly, the defendant in the case, the animal control services, had been contacted previously about the cat.
It is alleged in the application to the civil court that the defendant failed to follow standard industry practices and proper procedures with respect to the collection and capturing of stray felines.
The person bringing the case (the applicant or plaintiff) is Brandon Inks, a minor by Jennifer Inks. The defendant is Gaydos-Behanna Kennel and Robin Gaydos-Behanna. The defendant has a Facebook page. If you would like to read about them then please click on this link. The location is Allegheny County (just south of Pittsburgh).
To return to the question in the title; as I said we will find out in due course, hopefully, if the matter is reported on again (there is a case number at the base of this page). In the meantime we can speculate that, on the face of it, the plaintiff has a fair chance of success for the sole reason that the defendant knew of this cat. If they had been told on several occasions that a black cat at a certain location had been attacking people and trying to bite them then it is foreseeable that the cat might have rabies and therefore under the circumstances the defendant would have a duty of care to the citizens of the community to use their best efforts to trap the cat and take him in for testing.
However, if they were unaware of the cat because the information that we have is misleading and inaccurate then they are not liable in my opinion. A local animal care and control services cannot be expected to keep tabs on every cat in the district. This is obviously impractical and unreasonable. However once notified of a particular cat then they potentially become liable if they fail to act. I would expect that in 99% of cases animal control are not liable. There may even be a public policy against making them liable to avoid animal control duties becoming untenable. Also it must be extremely rare to sue animal control.
This matter will turn on the facts and we can’t rely on the information that we have on the Internet to ascertain the facts. They can only come out in full in court and then tested in applying the law. The law in this instance will be the law of negligence which is a tort. Is based upon common law and there will no doubt be some precedents upon which the court can rely. Or at least they will be applied by the plaintiff’s attorney in her submissions. There may also be specific duties specified by the local authorities under which animal control operates which will have a bearing on the outcome.
Note: Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County case number GD-18-002474. Source article.