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Animal shelter not liable for dog bite upon new ownership of dog

Humane Society is not liable for injury caused by animal it no longer possessed. Miles, a minor, et al., v. Rich v. Humane Society of Missouri et al., No. 95112 (Mo. App. E.D., April 26, 2011) Crane, J.

Plaintiff was bitten by a dog, and filed suit for her injuries against Defendant, the dog's owner. Defendant filed a third-party petition for contribution against the Humane Society, alleging that the Humane Society was negligent in failing to properly screen and test the dog before allowing Defendant to adopt it. Defendant further alleged that the Humane Society was negligent in failing to advise the Defendant of the risks of owning a dog that had already bitten someone once before. The Humane Society filed a motion to dismiss the third-party petition for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion, and Defendant appealed.

Held: Affirmed. Under Missouri law, which is based on the RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS, only the owner, possessor, or harborer of a domestic animal may be held liable in a negligence for harm caused by the animal. Once Defendant adopted the dog and took ownership and possession, the Humane Society was no longer an owner, possessor, or harborer of the dog. Therefore, there was no liability on the part of the Humane Society, and the third-party petition failed to state a cause of action.