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What Happens When a Dog Bites Someone in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has very strict dog bite laws. If a dog bites, attacks, or hurts someone in this state, it may be labeled as a dangerous or nuisance dog. Then, both the dog and its owner may face strict penalties. A dog can only be labeled as dangerous or a nuisance if it actually hurts someone. It can’t get these labels due to its breed or just from growling or looking mean. If it does bite or attack, however, here’s what happens.

Dog Bites in MA

Due Process for Attack Dogs

If someone is attacked by a dog, they have three years to bring forward a complaint, and at that time, the case goes to a public hearing. That gives the victim as well as the dog owner the chance to present evidence and testimony related to the dog’s attack.

Based on that information, the hearing authority can choose one of the following three options:

  • Dismiss the complaint
  • Label the dog as a nuisance
  • Label the dog as dangerous

Note that this is essentially the criminal hearing. If someone has been attacked by a dog, they can also bring forward a civil suit. A civil suit is where the victim works with a dog bite attorney to get compensated for the damages associated with the dog attack.

Nuisance Dogs in Massachusetts

If a dog is determined to be a nuisance, the owner usually has to take action to reduce the unwanted behavior. For instance, the courts may require the dog to go to obedience classes, or they may create other requirements.

Penalties for Dangerous Dogs

When a dog bites someone, they are typically going to be labeled as dangerous, and in that situation, their owner may be required to do one or several of the following:

  • Keep the dog restrained
  • Confine the dog to secure premises, such as a locked pen or dog run with a roof
  • Put a muzzle or a short leash on the dog for outings
  • Insure the dog for at least $100,000 as a safeguard against future injuries or property damage
  • Create a permanent and reliable way for the state to identify that dog in the future, such as a microchip, photographs, veterinary records, etc.
  • Neuter or spay the animal
  • Euthanize the dog

Owners Who Break the Rules

If the owner doesn’t follow all the requirements for their nuisance or dangerous dog, the city may be able to take the dog and impound it. If the dog is ordered to be euthanized after being impounded, the owner usually must pay all the fees related to the impoundment and the euthanization. If the owner fails to pay, the city can place a lien on their property or increase the amount of their vehicle excise tax. Additionally, the dog owner will be banned from owning another dog for at least five years.

Civil Penalties for Dog Owners

After biting someone, the dog can face any or all the penalties listed above, but the owner may face additional civil penalties. When it comes to dog bite law, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. That means that the owner is always liable if their dog attacks. The only exceptions are if the victim was criminally trespassing, attacking, or provoking the dog, but these exceptions don’t apply to children under the age of seven. If a child is involved, the dog owner is always liable.

The owner may have to pay for the victim’s injuries as well as other costs related to their recovery or any disabilities that arise due to the injuries. Additionally, the owner may have to pay for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, or wrongful death if applicable.

Criminal Penalties for Dog Attacks

In some cases, the owner may also face criminal penalties. For instance, if an owner sets their dog loose and tells them to attack, that is akin to assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, and that dog owner may face assault charges.

If you have been bitten by a dog, you have a right to justice. You may also have a right to compensation, but that’s not the only reason you should come forward. If you don’t act, the dog may continue its behavior and other people could get hurt.

To protect others from the dangerous dog that attacked you and obtain the compensation you deserve, consult with a dog bite attorney today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we are experienced personal injury lawyers who can help you.

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