The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

Vegas Chimp Rampage: Purpose of Dangerous Animal Laws?

Dane Cook has a joke that every man’s fantasy is to have a monkey for a pet. Unfortunately, one person’s attempt to live out this fantasy with monkeys has ended in tragedy for the owner.

Just outside Las Vegas city limits, two chimpanzees escaped from their cage and rampaged around the neighborhood, running through yards and banging on cars, reported The Associated Press. One 911 call was made after the chimps jumped on a car with a woman inside. Once police arrived, one chimp even jumped on the roof of a police car, before running off.

While police tried to wrangle the chimpanzees while waiting for the experts to arrive, but the male chimp started moving towards the gathering crowd. The officer on the scene shot the chimpanzee dead, raising the issue of what could have happened had the chimp rampaged on those in the crowd and the owner’s liability under dangerous animal laws.

Most states follow the law that a wild animal is inherently dangerous and that any harm caused by one is the fault of the animal’s owner.

Even though the owner had proper permits and licenses to keep the animal, according to the AP, the owner would not be protected from liability for the animals’ escape. This is because of the theory of strict liability, which imposes liability on those that conduct activities that pose undue risk of harm to members of the community.

This is good knowledge for anyone who has owned a dog that bit someone in the past, because that animal is now considered a dangerous dog under Pennsylvania law and is subject to liability if the dog attacks again.

Pennsylvania also requires proper permits for owning wild animals, which will not be granted unless there is a satisfactory inspection of the proposed living area for the animals. The law also makes it a crime to allow a wild animal to harm another person, let alone be civilly liable.

While it is sad that the police had to shoot the rampaging chimpanzee, it is much better for the owner to not be liable under the dangerous animal laws for any possible attacks the chimp may have committed.

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