Every once in a while, my news feed delivers to me some horrendous story about a lawsuit involving a vicious attack by someone’s exotic pet animal such as a monkey or wolf or bear. Yes, some folks don’t find owning a standard run-of-the-mill dog or cat satisfying enough. No sir, they want to take a “walk on the wild side”. They might get a pet wolf, boa, miniature crocodile – you name it.
Since this is a legal blog, and a New York one, I am going to speak about what you have to prove in New York if you are attacked by a pet animal such as a bear or wolf versus the proof you need if you are attacked by a traditional pet – like a dog. There’s a legal difference!
Let me briefly digress. We had a case several years ago where our client accepted an invitation to visit a friend who was soon to be the lucky recipient of lawsuit papers signed by yours truly. What did he do to earn such an honor? He harbored his own private collection of caged bears and other exotic animals, a miniature zoo. Just a nice little hobby. He loved showing off his trophy beasts to friends and neighbors, and that’s what he did to our client. Unfortunately, he failed to warn our client about the length of the bears’ arms. Our client inadvertently wandered too close to a cage, and the bear got him in – well – a bear hug. I’ll spare you the gruesome details of what happened next.