Animal Control Beware: $5 Million Sought For Life of Woman Killed By Dogs

The public outcry against dangerous dogs has led to civil cases against animal control agencies who are perceived as not doing their jobs. A noteworthy case involving the death of Dorothy Sullivan has just gone to the jury in Virginia.

In 2005, Sullivan and her small dog, Buttons, were mauled to death outside her home by three roaming pit bulls. Authorities said the dogs belonged to Deanna Large, who lived about a mile from the Sullivan residence. Large was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and two misdemeanor charges for allowing her dogs to run loose. She received a sentence of three years in prison.

Today a civil jury is deliberating whether to award $5 million to Sullivan’s family. One of the defendants is the animal control department. The family produced evidence at trial that animal control officers are at least partly to blame for Sullivan’s death because they had been told of the threat of the neighbor’s roaming pit bulls. Lawyers for the animal control officers said they did respond to Sullivan’s calls. (Read the article.

In Tennessee, attorney Wayne A. Ritchie II and I are representing the family of Jennifer Lowe in a similar case. Jennifer was fatally mauled by pit bulls on November 12, 2007. The same dogs had been declared dangerous by the animal control department and, after that, had to be shot at when they attacked a police car. For these and other reasons, we contend that the animal control department contributed to Jennifer’s horrifying death because of their failure to confiscate the dogs. One week ago, the judge ruled that our case against animal control was solid on paper (i.e., the court ruled in our favor when government lawyers tried to have the case dismissed prior to the production of evidence at a hearing or trial).

The lesson to animal control agencies throughout the USA: doing your job means taking dangerous dogs off our streets. If you do not do your job, you will be held accountable when people are injured or killed.