Avoiding Liability for Mistakes and Decisions of the Board

Rescuing and adopting-out dogs is a wonderful activity, but also can be dangerous and legally risky.

There are many ways that mistakes can be made where animals are involved. Animals of all sorts are unpredictable. The people who are devoted to rescuing them are frequently under-trained, unpredictable, unrealistic, and too willing to excuse bad canine behavior when they believe that a dog has been mistreated.

Compounding the difficulty of running a rescue, there is a gray area in the law as it pertains to the difficult decision to either adopt out a dog, confine it somewhere indefinitely, or euthanize it.

Unpredictable dogs, emotional rescuers, legal gray area — the possibility of landing in court is very real.

To keep the directors, members, agents and employees out of trouble, you need to have reasonable policies, taught to all, and carried out regularly. An example is the policy that relates to dangerous dogs, which is on the Avoiding Liability CD ROM. Especially if a rescue organization has no insurance, it needs to pass a corporate resolution that adopts this policy, because it implements safe and reasonable procedures that therefore should protect not only the public from harm but also the organization from liability. Even if your rescue has insurance, however, you still need to implement this policy, because you certainly do not want to see anyone get hurt, hear the public complaining about your dogs, or invest time, energy and feelings in defense against a lawsuit.

While reasonable, safe policies are best to keep your organization running smoothly, a comprehensive policy of liability insurance is essential if something goes wrong. You need insurance that will cover the organization’s premises, its day to day activities, and its board members. While there are protections that favor the directors of a non-profit corporation, one can still get sued even if one will eventually win. A lawsuit can be a very big and expensive burden — something an insurance company can deal with, and that you must avoid.

The bottom line is that you need to learn how to avoid liability when you engage in rescuing and adopting-out dogs, your organization needs to adopt the protective documents that have been made available on the Avoiding Liability CD ROM, the rescue also needs to implement the safe policies that are explained on the Avoiding Liability DVD, and finally, you need liability insurance as your last line of defense.