Town Not Liable Under Either Dog Control Law
Facts: The plaintiff claimed that over the course of one and one-half years a stray, and potentially rabid, dog was living on and causing damage to his property. Despite having made several complaints to the Town, he was provided with no assistance. The plaintiff eventually succeeded in capturing the dog himself, but only after the dog had caused $1,452 in damage to his property.
The plaintiff filed a small claims action against the Town, seeking compensation based on the Town’s inaction. The district court ruled that because the Town had adopted the Dog Control Law (RSA 466:30-a), which makes it unlawful for a dog to run at-large and authorizes the impoundment of any such dog, the Town was liable for the damages even it lacked sufficient personnel to enforce the law.
The Town appealed.
Held: Reversed. While the Dog Control Law imposes liability on municipalities for damage to animals caused by dogs (RSA 466:21) and provides for compensation from the town where an adequate remedy is not available from the owner of the dog (RSA 466:22), the statute does not provide a remedy for other types of property. The district court erred in imposing liability on the Town under the statute.The Court also held that a remedy was not available to the plaintiff under a common law municipal negligence theory. A municipality does not have a legal duty to prevent stray dogs from wandering onto and destroying the property of others. According to the Court, the Town is not a “guarantor of public peace, safety and welfare.”
GETMAN, SCHULTHESS & STEERE, P.A.
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