Armstrong v. Milwaukee Mutual Insurance Co

In Armstrong v. Milwaukee Mutual Insurance Co., 202 Wis. 2d 258, 549 N.W.2d 723 (1996), the Macks owned a Siberian husky which they left with a kennel when they went on vacation. Armstrong, an employee of the kennel, was bitten by the husky while trying to get the dog into her cage. Armstrong filed a complaint against the Macks and their insurer. In determining whether Armstrong could recover, the court first considered who was a "keeper" of a dog under the statute. See Armstrong, 202 Wis. 2d at 264-65, 549 N.W.2d at 726. The court determined that because Armstrong was caring for and exercising control of the dog at the time she was bitten, she was a keeper of the dog and therefore, an owner under the statute. See 202 Wis. 2d at 267-268, 549 N.W.2d at 727-28. The court then considered whether a keeper can hold a legal owner, against whom no negligence is alleged, strictly liable under Wis. Stat. 174.02. See Amstrong, 202 Wis. 2d at 268, 549 N.W.2d at 728. Relying on the purpose of the statute, the court refused to allow a keeper to use the statute to hold another statutory owner strictly liable. The court reasoned that the purpose of the statute is to protect those people who are not in a position to control the dog, and not to protect those persons who are statutorily defined as owners. See id. The court emphasized, "of course, when there is negligence, there is nothing in this opinion which should be interpreted to prevent a keeper from pursuing a common-law negligence claim against another owner." See id. at 268 n.8, 549 N.W.2d at 728 n.8.