Dogs make wonderful companions and are a great addition to any family. According to statistics, there were 89.7 million dogs in the United States as household pets in 2017. Whereas most of the time our dogs are loving and friendly, every so often even a dog may have a bad day—that doesn’t necessarily mean it is dangerous.
New York Agriculture & Markets Code sections 108(24) and 123 define what a “dangerous dog” is. Your town or municipality may also have its own local laws governing dangerous dog proceedings, as well. In New York State, if your dog attacks another person, a companion animal, farm animal, domestic animal, or service dog which results in injury or death, without justification; or behaves in a manner which a reasonable person believes would pose a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death, your dog could potentially be declared “dangerous.” A person who has witnessed an attack, or perceived a potential attack may make a complaint about your dog to a dog control or police officer. Thereafter, they may commence a “dangerous dog proceeding.” However, you and your dog have rights, and it is important for every dog owner to be informed of them.
If a proceeding has been commenced against your dog, first a judge must make a determination based on probable cause as to whether he or she deems the dog to be dangerous. If the judge deems the dog to be so, your dog may be taken from you and confined. Thereafter, a hearing must be held in no earlier than two, and no later than five days. A hearing is held regardless of the judge’s initial determination.
At the hearing, it is the burden of the person who made the complaint to prove that your dog is dangerous by clear and convincing evidence. You, as the dog’s guardian, can raise defenses on the dog’s behalf. Under the statute, your dog has the following defenses available in an effort to prove it is not dangerous:
The dog was provoked, tormented, abused, threatened
The dog attacked during the commission of a crime against the dog’s owner or property
The dog was injured or in pain
The dog was protecting itself, owner, puppies, or another member of the household when it attacked
In addition, law enforcement dogs carrying out their duties cannot be declared dangerous.
However, if the judge finds your dog to be dangerous, several penalties may be incurred. There may be a civil monetary penalty. In addition, as New York follows strict liability concerning dangerous dogs, you may also be responsible for the medical costs of the injured party unless you are able to show that the dog was reacting to one of the circumstances listed above. Moreover, you run the risk of facing criminal misdemeanor penalties if your dog was previously declared dangerous.
The judge has discretion as to what will happen to the dog. If he or she does in fact find the dog to be dangerous, neutering/spaying and microchipping MUST be ordered. The judge may decide to have the dog evaluated by an animal behavioral expert, order restraint or muzzling when the dog is in public, confine the dog, and/or order the dog’s guardian to maintain a liability insurance policy. If certain aggravating factors are found, the judge can also order euthanasia.
If you and your dog are facing a dangerous dog proceeding, it is best to contact an attorney immediately, as time is not on your side. If your dog has already been declared dangerous you only have thirty days to appeal that decision and must act quickly.
Attorney Advertising. The content herein is not intended to be construed as legal advice or form an attorney-client relationship. Contact the Law Office of Jessica M. Semins to schedule a consultation (646) 397-6844.