Lack of Leash Policies Increases Liability for Veterinary Hospital

Loss Amount: $60,300

Situation: A client was checking her dog in at the front desk of a veterinary hospital. She had the dog firmly secured to her wrist with a leash. Another client was exiting from one of the exam rooms with his pets, a pair of large pit bulls. He did not have them on leashes. Instead, he was trying to guide them through the lobby while holding onto their collars when one of them broke free. It immediately attacked the other clients’ dog, badly mauling it. The dog survived the mauling after several weeks of surgical treatments. The owner also sought counseling for what was a very traumatic event.

Ordinarily, the owner of the large dogs would be at fault for the damages caused by his animal. But in this case, the owner of the attacked animal sued the veterinary hospital instead. She contended the hospital’s knowledge that the man’s pit bulls were aggressive (both parties were established clients) and lack of posted and enforced leash policies were the primary causes of the incident, and thus the hospital was liable for the damages.

Lesson Learned: There are several things that can be done to minimize the probability of an event like this, and the potential liability to veterinary practices.

  • Post conspicuous signs at the entrance and in the lobby requiring all pets to be on a leash or in a carrier. Strictly enforce the policy and provide leashes or carriers on loan to clients who do not have them.
  • Securely install leash anchors at the front desk and elsewhere in the lobby to allow clients to have their hands free for other tasks, or to help them manage their pets if they become excited.
  • Use alternate entries and exits, if available, for large animals that are known to be aggressive.

For further assistance in preventing all types of losses, call VISC at 888.762.3143.