In a recent update to the state of Massachusetts legislation on dog laws, it does not fall on county and town authorization to classify certain dog breeds as “dangerous.” Although most dog attacks occur amongst a certain breed, the breed itself should not be the one punished, and neither should owners living with these breeds.
According to the MSPCA, which called for this new legislation, most attacks occur within the home or on the property of the owner; the victims usually being young children, or visiting family and friends.
In Essex County, as well as the rest of the state, leash laws are being enforced in places of BSL (breed-specific legislation) in order to prevent attacks in public, which contrary to popular belief, occur mostly because of unrestrained dogs, not because a specific dog is deemed dangerous. In addition to the current solution, the definition of a dangerous dog has to be determined prior to any circumstance in which a dog attacks a person. According to Article V of the Administrative Legislation from the City of Haverhill in Essex County, the term “dangerous dog” shall mean:
- Any dog that has bitten or attacked any person or has attempted to bite or attack any person. A dog shall be deemed to be attempting to attack if it is retrained by a leash, fence or other means and it is clear from the dog’s excited actions that only the presence of the leash, fence, or other means of restraint is preventing the dog from making an immediate attack;
- Any dog with propensity, tendency or disposition to attack, cause injury to, or to otherwise threaten the safety of domestic animals, or any dog which attacks a human being or domestic animal on one or more occasions without provocation and without justification.
- Any dog, whether leashed or not, which, in a vicious or terrorizing manner, approaches any person in an apparent attitude of attack upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds or places.
- Any dog owned or harbored primarily or in the part for purpose of dog fighting or any dog trained for dog fighting.
- Any dog harbored on property known for drug trafficking or gang activity and shows an aggressive temperament.
In the City of Haverhill, when a dog is considered dangerous, it is enforced that signs be in place on the property where the dog is harbored, rabies shots are up-to-date, and that proper security is provided, by fence or any other means of constraint where entry and escape are insurmountable. With proper preventative measures and a fair warning to visitors, all outsiders would be entering at their own risk.
On the sidewalk, in a public park or on the street, it is necessary that aggressive or dangerous dogs be muzzled and restrained by an able-bodied adult. If you are attacked in a public place by a dog deemed “dangerous” you are entitled to compensation, and the owner can be fined up to $100, depending on whether this is a repeated offense. If you are attacked on the property of the owner that has taken all the proper precautions to warn outsiders of a dangerous dog, then the victim must prove they were not trespassing or committing tort.
A new law in place protecting dog breeds with dangerous reputations does not lessen liability. Massachusetts is a strict liability state, and owners, in most cases, are legally responsible for all injuries, psychological trauma or death caused by a dog, whether or not the dog has previously attacked or has the potential to. If you have a personal injury and need legal representation, seek the advice of lawyers that specialize in dog bites and attacks, and can help get you compensated accordingly.