Ohio wild animal escape prompts discussion on Maryland Animal Law

lion.jpgIf you haven’t heard yet, there are about 56 lions and tigers and bears that escaped and are 1 remaining monkey that escaped and is on the loose from a Zanesville, Ohio preserve Monday after the owner of the property, Terry Thompson, apparently decided to release all of the animals from his property and then decided killed himself. This has certainly disrupted life in Ohio, as the local school district canceled class in light of the threat of attack.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys and Annapolis Maryland Dog Bite attorneys often receive calls from those who have the misfortune of being the victim of dog bites from another’s pet. The law contemplates a remedy for a victim against the owner, although the remedy is different depending on whether the animal is a wild animal or domesticated animal.

Under Maryland law, an animal owner is Strictly Liable for injuries caused by wild animals as long as the injured person did nothing to bring about his or her injury. In other words, by the very nature of Mr. Thompson maintaining the lions, tigers and bears as pets, he is responsible for any damages they cause, whether it is damage to person or property. Since Mr. Thompson is now deceased, if one of Mr. Thompson’s animals attacks a human or damages another’s property, a claim will likely be made against his estate.

Domesticated animals, like dogs and cats, are treated differently. For an owner of a domesticated pet to be proven liable, an owner is not strictly liable for injuries caused by domestic animals unless the owner has knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensities that are not common to the species. In other words, the owner has to know that the animal has the propensity to attack humans.

You might have heard the phrase that “every dog gets one free bite.” In other words, it is often misunderstood that unless the dog has bitten before then there is no owner liability. That is not always true, because an owner can also be liable for negligence when he exerts ineffective control over his animal where an injury is likely to occur.

If the dog has bitten a person before, however, obviously the owner is on notice of the animal’s tendencies and that certainly supports proving liability. If an owner knows that his dog is vicious, then the owner will be strictly liable for the injuries his animal causes, just like the owner of a wild animal.


If you have been injured by another’s pet you should definitely consult an experienced injury attorney to discuss your rights. You may very well be entitled to recover damages to compensate you for your medical expenses, missed time from work and pain and suffering. Call the Brassel, Alexander & Rice for a free consultation.