An animal shelter volunteer who was attacked by a dog that nearly ripped off her arm has been awarded $6.8 million in damages

A German Shepherd's paw on the wall of a crate.
A German Shepherd's paw on the wall of a crate.derketta/Getty Images
  • An animal shelter volunteer won $6.8 million in a lawsuit after she was attacked by a dog.

  • In October 2019, a dog that the volunteer was looking after latched onto her arm.

  • The volunteer says she almost lost her arm and was left with nerve and bone damage.

An animal shelter volunteer who was attacked by a dog has been awarded $6.8 million in damages, The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.

Kelly Kaneko, 36, was volunteering at a Los Angeles Animal Services facility in Lincoln Heights in October 2019 when she was asked to move a 100-pound German Shepherd mix named Jaxx from a kennel to another area in the facility where it would be introduced to a prospective family, lawyers for Kaneko say in a lawsuit seen by Insider.

Kaneko's lawyers allege that after Kaneko returned Jaxx to the kennel and took off the dog's leash, the animal latched onto her arm in an attack that persisted for five to seven minutes. Her lawyers allege that the dog wouldn't let go, so Kaneko was forced to pull herself and the dog 250 feet from the kennels to the shelter's main facility where she attempted to get help.

According to Kaneko's lawsuit, the one employee who was present didn't hear the attack because they were wearing earplugs, which had been recommended by shelter operators as previous employees had complained of losing their hearing while working there. Kaneko was able to get the employee's attention by dragging herself further into their field of vision at the front of the facility, Kaneko's lawyers allege.

Kaneko's attorney, Ivan Puchalt, told the LA Times that although shelter staff had previously told Kaneko that Jaxx was "grumpy," they failed to inform her about the details of the dog's aggressive nature. Puchalt told the LA Times the dog had bitten its previous owner, who said that Jaxx was aggressive and was a threat when the dog was returned back to the facility.

A former director with the Animal Services department testified at the trial that the dog was aggressive and this should have been noted on his kennel, Puchalt told The Los Angeles Times.

Kaneko's lawsuit alleges that employees and volunteers at the shelter were not properly trained on how to handle an aggressive dog, how to mitigate the risks of dog attacks, or how to respond to an emergency situation.

After the attack, Kaneko was taken by ambulance to LA County-USC Medical Center and spent 37 days in the hospital, mostly in the intensive care unit, the lawsuit states. Her lawyers allege in the suit that doctors initially told Kaneko she would likely lose her arm because the attack had crushed her bones, severed her arteries and veins, and damaged her nerves.

Her hand and arm were ultimately saved, but remain seriously damaged, according to the lawsuit.

More than three years later, Kaneko still has nerve and bone damage in her right arm as well as damage to her hand, the lawsuit alleges. She also could need to have her arm amputated in the future if she develops an infection, according to the lawsuit.

Puchalt told the LA Times that since the hand now gets less blood than before, it "always feels cold" and is often a different color.

"She has a very faint pulse and it's a very serious injury despite the amazing work they did. She hasn't been made whole," Puchalt told the LA Times.

Jaxx was euthanized a couple of months after the attack, he added.

Representatives for Ivan Puchalt, Los Angeles Animal Services, and the Los Angeles city attorney's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Kelly Kaneko could not be reached for comment.

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