Massachusetts recently passed legislation on dog laws in favor of specific breeds. In regards to Suffolk County, it is not contingent upon their authorization that certain dog breeds be deemed “dangerous”. Previously, people categorized certain dog breeds like pit bulls, as “dangerous” because they have a reputation for being aggressive. New legislation makes the dog owner responsible for this aggression, not the breed itself.
In Boston, as well as the rest of Suffolk County, breed specific laws are being replaced, and leash laws are being strictly enforced. This legislation is meant to prevent attacks, which according to MSPCA occur mostly within the home or on the owners property. In public, most attacks occur because of free roaming animals, not just those that are categorized as “dangerous.” According to Section 157 of the General Laws of Massachusetts:
“No dog shall be deemed dangerous: (i) solely based upon growling or barking or solely growling and barking; (ii) based upon the breed of the dog; or (iii) if the dog was reacting to another animal or to a person and the dog’s reaction was not grossly disproportionate to any of the following circumstances…”
Though these are statewide laws, each county differs when it comes to penalties and fines. In Boston and the rest of Suffolk County, the following action should be taken if authorities deem your dog dangerous:
that the dog be humanely restrained; provided, however, that no order shall provide that a dog deemed dangerous be chained, tethered or otherwise tied to an inanimate object including, but not limited to, a tree, post or building;
that the dog be confined to the premises of the keeper of the dog; provided, however, that “confined” shall mean securely confined indoors or confined outdoors in a securely enclosed and locked pen or dog run area upon the premises of the owner or keeper; provided further, that such pen or dog run shall have a secure roof and, if such enclosure has no floor secured to the sides thereof, the sides shall be embedded into the ground for not less than 2 feet; and provided further, that within the confines of such pen or dog run, a dog house or proper shelter from the elements shall be provided to protect the dog;
that when removed from the premises of the owner or the premises of the person keeping the dog, the dog shall be securely and humanely muzzled and restrained with a chain or other tethering device having a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds and not exceeding 3 feet in length;
that the owner or keeper of the dog provide proof of insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 insuring the owner or keeper against any claim, loss, damage or injury to persons, domestic animals or property resulting from the acts, whether intentional or unintentional, of the dog or proof that reasonable efforts were made to obtain such insurance if a policy has not been issued; provided, however, that if a policy of insurance has been issued, the owner or keeper shall produce such policy upon request of the hearing authority or a justice of the district court; and provided further, that if a policy has not been issued the owner or keeper shall produce proof of efforts to obtain such insurance;
that the owner or keeper of the dog provide to the licensing authority or animal control officer or other entity identified in the order, information by which a dog may be identified, throughout its lifetime including, but not limited to, photographs, videos, veterinary examination, tattooing or microchip implantations or a combination of any such methods of identification;
that unless an owner or keeper of the dog provides evidence that a veterinarian is of the opinion the dog is unfit for alterations because of a medical condition, the owner or keeper of the dog shall cause the dog to be altered so that the dog shall not be reproductively intact; or
that the dog be humanely euthanized.
Massachusetts is still a strict liability state when it comes to dog laws. BSL (breed-specific legislation) does not lessen liability on the dog owner; in fact it reinforces responsibility on their behalf. Dog owners in strict liability states are legally responsible for personal injury as a result of their dog’s aggressive behavior, as long as the victim was not trespassing or committing tort. If you’ve become victim to a dog attack and are in need of legal representation, it’s important to seek professional advice from lawyers with years of experience related to your injury, and can help get you compensated appropriately.