A woman who was mauled by a dog and almost had her arm ripped off while volunteering at an animal shelter nearly four years ago has been awarded $6.8 million by a jury that found the city of Los Angeles liable for gross negligence,.
“The truth was on our side,” said Kelly Kaneko, the 36-year-old woman who was volunteering at the Los Angeles Animal Services facility in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood when the dog bit her arm and latched on for more than five minutes. “It was very emotional. It’s been a long journey.”
She told the station she was initially drawn to the shelter due to the caring and compassion she feels for animals, especially after learning that facilities across the region were shorthanded.
“Animals have always been a big part of my life,” Kaneko said. “So when I heard most of the dogs didn’t get out of their kennels for months at a time it really broke my heart.”
Kaneko hopes that the verdict and her story are enough to inspire change within the city’s Animal Services Department, which has seen its share of controversy in recent years.
In October 2019, Kaneko was moving Jaxx, a 100-pound German Shepherd mix, to a part of the shelter where a prospective adoptive family could meet him, into a cage when the incident happened, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This animal, very sadly, ended up in the shelter. He loved a family very much and his journey ended up really badly,” she said. “So, he affected my journey as well.”
As she searched the facility for help, Kaneko dragged herself and the dog, still latched onto her arm, for more than five minutes.
“It’s a big victory that my arm is still attached to my body,” she said.
On Wednesday, the jury found L.A. liable for gross negligence. Jaxx’s intake card had no information on his history, which could have warned her of prior aggressive incidents, including biting his previous owner.
“Kelly would have been able to read the comments about the dog,” said Kaneko’s attorney, Ivan Puchalt. “Or, she would have been able to know that this was an aggressive dog that as a volunteer she shouldn’t walk.”
“There’s no way that Kelly would have walked the dog had any of those things been done,” Puchalt said.
He told the Times Jaxx was euthanized months after the attack.
The newspaper says she had multiple surgeries and skin grafts and spent almost 40 days in the ICU.
Puchalt said she was told she’d probably lose her hand but it it was saved, though it’s extremely damaged.
“When she arrived at the ER, her hand was officially dead,” the paper quotes him as saying. “Her hand gets less blood now than it used to. It always feels cold. And it’s 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.”
Kaneko has other lingering effects, including some nerve damage, and has more surgeries planned.
Even so, her devotion to animals hasn’t changed. “I was born with a love for animals and I will die with a love for animals,” she said.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office was unavailable when CBS L.A. contacted it for comment on the matter.