A website available through the Michigan State University of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center helps you to find all the dog-related laws for every state. In the interest of the hot topic of dog breed bans and related ordinances and the difficult legal and moral decisions that accompany it I am highlighting Acts of interest on various topics that will help build up to a very important week - Dog Bite Prevention Week which is celebrated annually the 3rd full week in May.
Look for upcoming articles that discuss:
- Owner responsibility as it relates to dog bites, leash laws, and registration
- Etiquette concerning D.I.N.O.S. Dogs In Need of Space
- Explore the body language of dogs
- How to evaluate public dog parks
- Resources for baby and toddler safety
- Learn about the Be A Tree Program and how to promote it in your home and community
What is a dangerous dog?
We know what a dangerous animal is after the fact – after the bite or the attack happens. We dissect the traumatic event in our mind and recall the dog’s stiff posture, snarling teeth, the growling, and the rapid advance. We may even remember running or pulling away. The trauma is indelible, especially for a child. What is most important to recall is what happened BEFORE the attack. A great chance befalls a person to be attacked by an animal when they do things such as:
- Enter a yard or a home where a pet feels threatened
- Get too close to the personal space of a pet and disregard their stress signals
- Ignore a pet owner who asks you not to pet or approach
- Corner a pet leaving them no option to escape
- Run from, or attempt to scare away a pet running loose
Education about how to behave properly and safely around pets is partnered with prevention by adhering to leash laws, creating an extra barrier between your dog and the front door, using solid yard fencing with appropriate height, seeking help to socialize your pet properly; and advocate for your dog against people of any age that have poor manners and judgment.
According to the Michigan State University of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center, Act 426 of 1988 helps the public to see what the law defines as “dangerous animal”. Please make two notes when reading the act below.
- That a bite is a natural consequence to someone who knowingly trespasses on the property.
- A bite is something that can be expected if you provoke or torment an animal.
DANGEROUS ANIMALS (Act 426 of 1988)
Sec. 1. As used in this act:
(a) “Dangerous animal” means a dog or other animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the property or under the control of its owner. However, a dangerous animal does not include any of the following:
(i) An animal that bites or attacks a person who is knowingly trespassing on the property of the animal’s owner.
(ii) An animal that bites or attacks a person who provokes or torments the animal.
(iii) An animal that is responding in a manner that an ordinary and reasonable person would conclude was designed to protect a person if that person is engaged in a lawful activity or is the subject of an assault.
Know what to expect if your pet is deemed “dangerous”
In the following section it addresses when a complaint is made against your pet and the steps you should expect including a summons to appear in court, that your pet would be put on a hold with another party and that depending on the severity of the situation the consequences to your pet could range anywhere from insurance liability, to escape proofing your property, to serialization or even euthanasia.
Why are these actions an afterthought?
Even the most responsible pet owner will have a pet escape from their yard or do something like go camping and leave their dog off leash. Children who don’t know dog safety will undoubtedly pull their ears and tail and elicit a well-meaning growl and snarl. Dogs will forever be given a pass on a nip because they are a small breed and on the other hand be demonized for their stature and assumed nature if they are “big”.
The most important thing to take away is that the attack, summons, court costs, and euthanasia does not need to ever happen if we exercise caution and precaution and do what we are charged to do when providing a forever home to a pet – be their advocate and their buffer against the human world.
287.322 Sworn complaint; summons; surrender of animal; expense; rabies vaccination and license required; destruction of animal; notification of animal control authority; ordering owner of animals to take certain actions.
Sec. 2. (1) Upon a sworn complaint that an animal is a dangerous animal and the animal has caused serious injury or death to a person or has caused serious injury or death to a dog, a district court magistrate, district court, or a municipal court shall issue a summons to the owner ordering him or her to appear to show cause why the animal should not be destroyed.
(2) Upon the filing of a sworn complaint as provided in subsection (1), the court or magistrate shall order the owner to immediately turn the animal over to a proper animal control authority, an incorporated humane society, a licensed veterinarian, or a boarding kennel, at the owner’s option, to be retained by them until a hearing is held and a decision is made for the disposition of the animal. The owner shall notify the person who retains the animal under this section of the complaint and order. The expense of the boarding and retention of the animal is to be borne by the owner. The animal shall not be returned to the owner until it has a current rabies vaccination and a license as required by law.
(3) After a hearing, the magistrate or court shall order the destruction of the animal, at the expense of the owner, if the animal is found to be a dangerous animal that caused serious injury or death to a person or a dog.
After a hearing, the court may order the destruction of the animal, at the expense of the owner, if the court finds that the animal is a dangerous animal that did not cause serious injury or death to a person but is likely in the future to cause serious injury or death to a person or in the past has been adjudicated a dangerous animal.
(4) If the court or magistrate finds that an animal is a dangerous animal but has not caused serious injury or death to a person, the court or magistrate shall notify the animal control authority for the county in which the complaint was filed of the finding of the court, the name of the owner of the dangerous animal, and the address at which the animal was kept at the time of the finding of the court. In addition, the court or magistrate shall order the owner of that animal to do 1 or more of the following:
(a) If the animal that has been found to be a dangerous animal is of the canis familiaris species, have an identification number tattooed upon the animal, at the owner’s expense, by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The identification number shall be assigned to the animal by the Michigan department of agriculture and shall be noted in its records pursuant to Act No. 309 of the Public Acts of 1939, being sections 287.301 to 287.308 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. The identification number shall be tattooed on the upper inner left rear thigh of the animal by means of indelible or permanent ink.
(b) Take specific steps, such as escape proof fencing or enclosure, including a top or roof, to ensure that the animal cannot escape or non-authorized individuals cannot enter the premises.
(c) Have the animal sterilized.
(d) Obtain and maintain liability insurance coverage sufficient to protect the public from any damage or harm caused by the animal.
(e) Take any other action appropriate to protect the public.
History: 1988, Act 426, Eff. Mar. 30, 1989.