Minnesota Dog Bite Case: Owner, Harborer, or Keeper

What is Keeping or Harboring?

dog-keeper-1 Minnesota Dog Bite Case: Owner, Harborer, or KeeperThe court held that the following instruction is a correct statement of the law, “Harboring or keeping a dog means something more than a meal of mercy to a stray dog or the casual presence of a dog on someone's premises. Harboring means to afford lodging, to shelter, or to give refuge to a dog. Keeping a dog, as used in the statute before us, implies more than the mere harboring of the dog for a limited purpose or time. One becomes the keeper of a dog only when he either with or without the owner's permission undertakes to manage, control, or care for it as dog owners in general are accustomed to do.Verett v. Silver 309 Minn. 275, 277, 244 N.W.3d 147, 149 (1976)

The court, in Carlson v. Friday 694 N.W.2d 828, 831 (Minn. App. 2005), set out four criteria for keeping. The court stated, “… we hold that ‘keeping' for purposes of secondary ownership under the dog bite statute involves:

  • a voluntary acceptance
  • of temporary responsibility
  • as it relates to the management, control, or care of the dog
  • exercised in a manner generally similar to that of the dog's primary legal owner”

Minn. Stat. Ann. sec. 347.22: Damages, owner liable.

If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained. The term “owner” includes any person harboring or keeping a dog but the owner shall be primarily liable. The term “dog” includes both male and female of the canine species.

MN Dog Bite Cases: Examples of How Law is Applied

Kent worked for the owner and agreed to go to the owner's house to feed and exercise the dog while the owner was on vacation for a week. The dog, while on the leash, suddenly ran; jerking and pulling her arm. Kent sued under 347.22. Summary judgment was granted on the basis that Kent was a keeper of the dog. The court noted that she was the keeper of the dog because she “exercised control and authority” over the dog at the time of her injury. Kent v. Block 623 N.W.2d 908.

The court held a dog groomer, who had the dog for only a few hours, was a keeper and could not present a claim for her own injuries against the owner. Carlson v. Friday 694 N.W.2d 828 (Minn. App. 2005).

Vet clinic and employees were keepers. Tschida v. Berdusco 462 N.W.2d 410, 412 (Minn. App. 1990).

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