The Iowa Court of Appeals recently had before it a sad (sad for the child that was injured and sad for the dog) and somewhat surprising dog-bite case in which they decided that a fact question was created, necessitating further review, when a landlord had knowledge that a dog had a propensity towards violence and yet that landlord allowed the dog to remain on the property.
The abbreviated facts are as follows: Landlord’s son, who was also a tenant, had a German Shepard as a pet. German Shepard was kept outside, possible neglect occurring (Disclosure Alert: dog owner writing this blog post). German Shepard attacks neighbor. Landlord/father is aware that tenant/son’s dog attacked neighbor. Steps are taken to insure that dog does not get loose again. Tenant/Son sent jail for unrelated matter. Dog left in fenced in yard (testimony showed neglect). Landlord/father insists that dog be removed. Son/ex-tenant threatens suicide, father/ex-landlord relents. Dog eventually escapes and severely injures neighbor boy. Court of Appeals finds, among other things, that a fact issue requiring further review had been created as to whether the landlord was negligent in allowing a dangerous dog to remain in his property.
The lesson: If you are going to allow your tenants to have pets you should have your tenants provide you with information regarding the animals demeanor and any past displays of abnormal aggression. Also, you should put a provision in your leases that would allow you to terminate the lease should you become aware of an animals aggression and after such aggression the tenant refuses to find alternate accommodations for pet.