Perhaps you are not too sure about your neighbor’s new dog, or have noticed aggressive behavior in someone’s backyard while walking around the block. Either way, dog bites are a very serious matter. If you believe a neighborhood dog is at risk of biting others, learn what steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

What is a Suspicious Dog?
Even if a neighbor’s animal has growled, barked or lunged toward an individual, it does not qualify the dog as a “dangerous animal” under Michigan law. Legally, a dangerous animal is defined as:

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.

(iv) Livestock.

In most cases, a dog that barks frequently and causes frequent disturbances is not considered a dangerous animal. However, as a last resort, you may ask your local authorities about enforcing local noise laws.

Assessing the Situation
It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure their dog does not bite others. This can be accomplished through a secured yard, warning signs, and proper training for the dog. If you have concerns about the security or behavior of an animal, it is best to talk directly with the owner. If the owner is resistant to taking the right measures to confine their dog, it may be appropriate to contact the authorities.

Some dogs become aggressive as a result of neglect. If the dog in question is kept outdoors without shelter or lacks care, the owner may face fines for inadequate housing or neglect. If you believe this to be the case, it is best to report the situation to the authorities or local animal control.

Warning Signs of a Bite
If you are not trespassing or provoking an animal, a dog bite is not the victim’s fault. In Michigan, an owner is liable for a dog bite whether or not the dog has bitten before or displayed aggressive behavior. However, being aware of these warning signs can help prevent an injury from occurring. Many believe aggressive dogs are the ones that bite, but often, many dogs bite out of fear or induced anxiety. Watch out for behavioral signs such as:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Yawning, licking lips
  • Growling or showing teeth
  • Rigid, stiff or high tail wagging
  • Stiff posture
  • Raised fur or hackles
  • Tail tucked between the legs
  • Seeing the white’s of their eyes
  • Female dogs in heat

You should also take the following precautions:

  • Never approach a strange dog
  • Do not disturb a dog’s food, drink or belongings like toys
  • Do not put yourself between a dog and someone it is attacking/hunting
  • Do not disturb a dog in an overstimulated or strange environment

In The Event of a Dog Bite
Immediately after the dog bite, your primary objective should be treating the wound. Afterward, it is vital to contact the owner to notify them of the incident and make sure the dog is updated on vaccinations (ie, not carrying a disease). In terms of the dog owner, compliance with the victim is vital and can even help reduce the sentence.

If you have been hurt by a dog and wish to claim compensation for medical treatment or trauma, you must prove three things. First, that any injuries resulted directly from a dog bite, and not other causes such as being knocked over. Second, that the injured person had not provoked the dog, and lastly, that the person was not trespassing on another’s property at the time of the incident. If you were injured by a dog but not directly through a dog bite, then you may sue the owner for negligence. If a dog has been found to have bitten someone, the court will choose to either have the dog quarantined or put down. 

If you have any questions regarding a dog bite or injury, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Learn more about Ladas & Hoopes and schedule a free consultation for personal injury compensation.