A Los Angeles Animal Services volunteer was awarded $6.8 million on Tuesday after suffering through a gruesome dog attack. She spent more than a month in intensive care, endured multiple surgeries and skin grafts, and was expected to lose her hand. Fortunately, her hand was saved, though she is not expected to regain full use of it.
The city was found guilty of gross negligence, and it’s easy to see why. The unfortunate volunteer was left alone with a 100-pound dog that had known aggression issues. It had attacked its previous owner and was described as a “threat.” Meanwhile, staff chose to use the euphemism “grumpy” to describe its temperament, and remarkably, had tasked the volunteer with bringing this dog to meet a family of prospective adopters. Despite all of this, the dog wasn’t euthanized until months after the attack. Sadly, this incident isn’t shocking; it was inevitable. The dog may have been kept in the shelter for ideological reasons, concerns over live release numbers, disbelief of previous owner statements, or simply due to lack of knowledge and/or staffing, but if you keep a vicious dog – especially a large one – on site and available for adoption, it’s only a matter of time before something really awful happens.
Many shelters and rescues are having a hard time securing veterinarian services, retaining staff, and finding volunteers right now, and incidents like this really don’t help on the volunteer front. Hopefully, the suffering endured by this animal-loving volunteer – and the award she received – causes shelters to rethink their policies regarding dangerous animals.