When someone wants to go to a shelter or a rescue group to adopt a dog, what must the organization disclose about the history of the dog? Specifically, if the dog is believed to have a history of biting, does this need to be disclosed?
What should shelters tell potential adopters about dogs who have bitten in the past?
Attorney Kenneth Phillips is very interested in this question, because he represents people and their families who have been injured by dogs, and is an advocate for increasing adoptions of dogs generally.
Ken explains that only two states, Virginia and California, have laws requiring shelters and rescue groups offering dogs to share the so-called bite history if known, of the animals to potential adopters.
He feels the practice should be universal and believes that an unintended consequence of the no-kill movement has been to incentivize shelters and rescue groups to withhold such negative histories in the name of getting more dogs adopted.
Lori then offers her thoughts on the discussion with Ken Phillips. She contends that knowing the true history of dogs who may have bitten is often impossible.
Dogs who have bitten in the past
Furthermore, just because a dog has bitten does not mean the dog is dangerous or vicious. Dogs will bite as part of their nature, such as when fearful, injured, protecting their guardians, etc.
She also explains how the definition of dangerous or vicious is very subjective and that often, certain breeds get unfairly labeled as dangerous.