A Michigan City Returns to the Stone Age with Its Laws on “Dangerous Dogs”

Even "potentially dangerous" dogs are beset with rules including excessive liability insurance.


One city in Michigan is taking an incredibly hard line against “dangerous dogs.” New regulations in Royal Oak that take effect today require owners of dogs deemed “dangerous” and even “potentially dangerous” to carry $1 million in liability insurance.

They’re also required to post signs around their house, take an obedience class with the dog, and keep the dog in a locked, fenced-in area. Also, the dog must be muzzled and leashed when outside the enclosure, according to the Oakland Press.

Officials say the move is in reaction to the number of attacks last year, with 32 reports of dog bites and “vicious” incidents reported to police.

According to officials, a dog will be considered dangerous if the dog bites or attacks a person, or causes serious injury (disfigurement or impairment) to another domestic animal. The law won’t apply if the dog bites someone committing a crime (like assaulting the owner) or trespassing on the owner’s property. Nor will it apply to dogs who bite someone provoking or tormenting them.

However, there’s a gray area, and a nasty one at that — dogs who are deemed “potentially dangerous” also fall under the law. According to the Oakland Press, a dog can receive that designation if he or she poses a threat to public safety by:

  • Causing an injury to another domestic animal that is less severe than a serious injury.
  • Chasing or menacing a person or domestic animal in an aggressive manner without provocation.
  • Being impounded by the animal control officer three or more times in a 12-month period.
  • Acting in a “highly aggressive” manner within a fenced yard or enclosure that the dog appears able to jump or escape.

An animal control officer can designate a dog as dangerous or potentially dangerous. The potentially dangerous designation, however, can be removed if the dog isn’t involved in any incidents in 18 months, pending a review of the case.

Lori Wosnicki, who owns a Bernese Mountain Dog, believes the law goes too far.

“Look at this dog, who goes to schools and has kids lay all over him,” she told CBS. I have a really hard time with [the ordinance], because how do you decide what’s dangerous?”

Royal Oak resident John Scott, however, supports it: “If you’re a dog owner, you know that dogs are protective of their territory. There’s an old saying that there’s no bad dogs, just bad owners.”

While we have yet to see how this law will play out, it’s amazing to us that a dog who simply acts “highly aggressive” in his own yard can be hit with the label, simply because he “appears” able to jump over or otherwise escape his enclosure. The potential for officials to abuse this law is staggering.

Via the Oakland Press and CBS

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