Woes in the wild: Cruelty cases that prove animals should be allowed to sue

Woes in the wild: Cruelty cases that prove animals should be allowed to sue

The personal injury attorneys at Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are dutiful defenders of dog bite victims. Be that as it may, we are friends to dogs and most animal species. If you ask us (our contact info can be found here), animals deserve protection against inhumane acts, including those performed by people whose sworn duty is to restore their health.

Some days, we imagine what it must be like to represent a parrot, a terrier corgi, or a ragdoll. If we actually could, we’d start with these unfortunate creatures and their ilk.

The raccoon drowner

Raccoons are adaptable and ubiquitous creatures capable of foraging for their own food and surviving in the wild — until they're faced with large bodies of water.

We imagine Florida attorney Thomas Cope doesn’t care for raccoons seeing as he scared one off his shiny yacht and into the ocean. He even had some sweet parting words for the furry creature: “So long, sucker!” — recorded on video and posted on Facebook.

The poor raccoon may have drowned in the Gulf of Mexico like a brave trash pirate, but Mr. Cope lived to regret his cruel treatment of the coon. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched an investigation of Mr. Cope’s act of cruelty.

He claimed he was sorry and that he couldn’t travel the 20 miles back to shore (sure he could), so he did the most sensible thing he could think of: shoo the “sucker” out to sea.

Now, if the raccoon had bitten him or any of the passengers in his yacht, people would be sorry for him. But alas, he might forever be known as the raccoon drowner.

The alligator that bit the hand that fed

For the average American family, a fun time is a night out at the movies or a picnic at the park. Some prefer to be out in the wild.

In June 2012, Floridian Wallace Weatherholt toured a family aboard his airboat in the Everglades National Park. Part of his unique wildlife tour is a little show involving alligators, a fish bait, and an act of daredevilry.

Unfortunately for Mr. Weatherholt, things didn’t go as planned. While attempting to feed fish to an alligator in the Florida wetlands, one rabid reptile swam toward the surface and bit off Mr. Weatherholt’s hand instead of the bait that he dangled.

Wildlife officials hunted and killed the five-digit devourer to retrieve the tour guide’s hand, but alas, doctors were unable to reattach his trusty bait dangler. And as if having your hand severed isn’t bad enough, Mr. Weatherholt had to contend with the fact that feeding or enticing gators is unlawful under the State of Florida’s laws.

Justice for “Justice”

Imagine a world where pets can sue their owners (read: their humans) for giving them insufficient kibble. If animals could sue, the justice system would be flooded with lawsuits and hairballs.

Certain animals rights activists in Oregon weren’t being cheeky, however, when they attempted to file a lawsuit on behalf of Justice (formerly known as Shadow), an American Quarter Horse-Appaloosa mix. They sued Justice’s former owner, Gwendolyn Vercher, for $100,000 for starving and neglecting the poor mare.

The case for Justice was dismissed.

Although horses and other four-legged creatures are unable to seek damages in civil lawsuits, they can be considered victims in animal cruelty cases. But according to the Washington County judge, “allowing animals the right to sue their owners for neglect was a leap too far.”

Justice was discovered in March 2017 emaciated and badly in need of medical care due to permanent physical and psychological injuries.

Lawyers for the animal rights advocacy group Animal Legal Defense Fund then stepped into action and filed a lawsuit against Ms. Vercher. Their lawsuit indicated the details of the decline that Justice had suffered due to the owner’s neglect. Ms. Vercher pleaded guilty and was required to pay $3,700 in restitution for Justice’s medical bills.

Finally, justice for Justice.

A typical work day at the Renton offices of Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams involves defending Seattle clients who got chomped by chow-chows. We discuss with them Washington state’s “Strict Liability” laws on dog bites and other pertinent matters. They’re a lot to chew on, so get in touch with our personal injury attorneys if you want to learn more.