Dangerous Dog Laws

Dangerous dog laws, also known as “vicious dog laws,” are in place to protect the public from dog bite injuries by restricting the activities of dogs that are known to be dangerous. Dogs that have previously bitten humans or attacked other animals may be labeled dangerous by the city, county, or state. Owners of dogs that have been labeled dangerous may face penalties if dangerous dog laws are not obeyed and a bite incident occurs.

Dangerous Dog Complaint

For a dog to be labeled dangerous, a complaint must be filed with the agency in charge of enforcing dangerous dog laws. This may be the sheriff’s department, animal control, the health department, or a local court depending on the jurisdiction. The person that was attacked or law enforcement that dealt with the incident may file the complaint. The dog owner may contest the label at a hearing.

State Restrictions

The restrictions imposed after a dog has been labeled dangerous may vary widely. In some states dangerous dogs are ordered to be destroyed immediately. In most states, the dog owners will be ordered to keep the dog contained at all times, and the dog will only be allowed out while on a leash. The order may specify that a muzzle is to be worn when the dog is being taken through areas where people and other animals may be.

Other actions that may be required to identify, contain, or cover dangerous dogs include:

  • Implanting of special micro chipping to identify the dog as dangerous
  • Placing a tattoo on the dog that identifies the dog as dangerous
  • Using a certain colored leash that identifies the dog as dangerous
  • Posting a “Beware of Dog” sign, sometimes with pictures to alert children to the danger
  • Buying liability insurance to cover damages or injuries inflicted by the dog
  • Buying a special dangerous dog license
  • Keeping the dog in a locked enclosure that meets certain specifications
  • Notifying animal control and new owners of the dangerous dog status if the dog is sold or given away

Dangerous Dog Penalties

If a dog is labeled dangerous, the dog owner must adhere closely to the dangerous dog laws in order to avoid penalties and an order to have the dog put down. If a dangerous dog injures someone, the fines imposed on the owner may be as much as three times the normal penalties. If a dangerous dog kills someone, the owner may face prison time. Dogs that have attacked someone after being labeled dangerous are usually ordered to be put down.