What is my liability if I’m a petsitter who was on a stay at a property and a dog’s escaped?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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What is my liability if I’m a petsitter who was on a stay at a property and a dog’s escaped?

I was informed, in person, that one dog could be let out on the property without GPS, whereas the other, was the runner and needed to be monitored. The property is about 7 acres and the fence runs on the outermost part of the property. The fence was chicken wire attached to country style gates and fences. Long story short, the dog I was told was not an escape liability dug a hole underneath the wire, ran after a deer and disappeared. The animal hasnt been seen since, and myself and my agency have done everything possible to find him. The client is threatening legal action. Is this possible?

Asked on October 12, 2015 under Business Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

It is possible in that the owner can file a lawsuit--it is almost impossible to stop someone from bringing a lawsuit. However, on the facts you describe, if they were not contested by the other side or, if contested, if the court acvepted your version, you should not be liable i.e. would have a good defense. That is because liability depends on fault fault in a case like this typically depends on negligence, or unreasonable carelessness and it is not unreasonably careless to follow the dog owner's instructions. It would be helpful to your case if you had the instructions in some writing, like an email or text message, provably from the owner.
Even if you were liable, liability in cases like this is typically limited to the economic value of the dog, which is usually not too much excepy in the case of valuable show or breeding dogs.

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