Victim Sues Animal Control – Worthy Cause But Difficult To Win

In November 2006, Dr. Nancy Matthews, a 47 veterinarian, was mauled by two boxers that previously bit two other people and were on the loose near her house in northern San Diego County. The dog owner, Pedro Torres, pleaded guilty to a felony and in December 2007 was sentenced to 90 days in jail and four years on probation. 

Matthews is suing Animal Services, alleging that the department failed to investigate previous bites by the dogs and take steps to protect the public. She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages. In California, court actions for injuries are not permitted to state the amount being sought, which is subject to proof at trial. The judge hearing the case has ruled that it cannot succeed as a matter of law, but has given Matthews’ lawyer a second opportunity to make the civil charges stick. (To read the article about this case, click here.)

In my opinion, the courts in general need to take these cases very seriously and allow worthy claims to proceed to trial. It makes no sense at all for law enforcement to promise to keep the streets safe from dangerous dogs, and to prosecute people for killing dangerous dogs, while the authorities themselves do next to nothing. In every state, the duty to provide animal control services should be mandatory on the part of cities and counties, and people who are injured because of the negligence of the authorities should be compensated.