A $750 fine, and barred from adopting or importing dogs into Virginia for two years. Is that penalty enough for adopting out a dog with a known bite history that ended up killing a 90 year-old woman?
Records showed that before coming to Virginia Beach, Blue had been surrendered to a New York City shelter for biting a child. The records also showed that Forever Home had adopted Blue out to another Virginia Beach woman before the fatal attack, but she returned the dog after he bit her.
The rescue group didn’t report the bite as the law requires. Colvin’s daughter, Linda Patterson, said she also was not told of the dog’s bite history. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Forever Home in August and is seeking $5 million in damages.
When a tragic story like this comes out, it is easy to get caught up in arguments over interpretations of no-kill philosophy, the limits of rehabilitation, or attacking individual breeds of dog.
When we circle our philosophical and ethical wagons, it is easy to forget that there are very simple ways of reducing the occurrences of horrible incidents like these. For starters: keeping better and more open records and reporting a dog’s prior history to the public. So often, when a serious bite occurs after an adoption, it is uncovered after that the fact that the dog has a history of aggression. The last time a dog bites and injures somebody is usually not the first time it has shown aggression, and this is something people (typically previous rescues or owners) are all too often aware of. All adopters, public or private, have a responsibility to keep dangerous dogs from being adopted to the public.
This is an issue NAIA has been on top of for awhile. We have spoken out on this issue and supported sensible legislation that would require adopters to disclose bite histories. Our lives will never be entirely free from risk, but when risk can be reduced simply through behaving responsibly and sharing information, there is no good excuse not to.
Below are a few previous articles on this issue our president, Patti Strand has written or been quoted in:
Patti Strand: More regulations needed for animal shelters and rescues
Massive, unregulated networks move dogs into Virginia to save them from death. Some worry it’s putting people at risk
NAIA supports Virginia SB 571 (disclosure of bite history)