When it comes to dog bites, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. That means the dog’s owner is responsible to for any harm the dog does to people or property, and the victim does not have to prove negligence to receive compensation.
If a dog is declared to be a “dangerous dog” by the local authority, Massachusetts law allows the authority to require the dog’s owner to take steps to prevent the dog from harming someone in the future. In rare cases, dogs that have killed or seriously harmed people or other animals are euthanized in Massachusetts, but dog owners have the right to appeal the decision.
What Happens When a Dog Bites Somebody?
Any time a dog bite breaks the skin, you should seek medical attention right away. The wound should be properly dressed, and your doctor may want to prescribe antibiotics to prevent serious infection. Doctors in Massachusetts are required to report all dog bites within 24 hours.
After a dog bite, you will want to exchange contact information with the dog’s owner, just like you would after an automobile accident. The owner should also provide the victim with information about the dog’s vaccination history.
A dog that bites a person will be checked for rabies and quarantined for ten days. The dog’s owner is usually allowed to quarantine the dog in their own home, and the owner must agree to keep the dog away from other people during that time.
Any person who is attacked by the dog or their family has the right to file a civil claim to receive damages from the dog’s owner. Dog owners are liable for all injuries caused by their dog.
The only defense the dog owner has a right to use is that the victim was trespassing or provoking, tormenting, teasing, or abusing the dog. But if the dog bite victim is under 7 years old, the owner is liable for damages in all cases.
The Local Authority Decides What Happens to the Dog
When a dog is causing problems, Massachusetts law allows citizens to file a written complaint to a hearing authority in the town where the dog lives. In addition to cases where dogs have bitten someone, the hearing authority also rules on cases where dogs are being a nuisance, such as bothering their neighbors due to excessive barking.
The hearing authority has three options:
- Dismiss the case
- Declare the pet to be “nuisance dog”
- Declare that it is a “dangerous dog”
According to Massachusetts law, a nuisance dog is an animal that is “the source of disturbance” to its neighbors or “has threatened or attacked livestock, a domestic animal or a person, but such threat or attack was not a grossly disproportionate reaction under all the circumstances.”
If a dog is declared a nuisance, the owner is usually required to take action to address the unwanted behavior. This may include measures to reduce barking or requiring the dog and its owner to attend obedience class.
What Happens to a Dangerous Dog?
When a dog bites someone or attacks another animal without provocation, it is probably going to be declared a dangerous dog by the hearing authority. Depending on the severity of the attack and the dog’s previous behavior, the hearing authority has several options. They may choose one or more of the following rulings:
- The owner must keep the dog restrained.
- The owner must neuter or spay the dog.
- The owner must muzzle the dog or a use a short leash for all outings.
- The owner must confine the dog to secure premises.
- The owner must insure the dog for at least $100,000.
- The dog must be identifiable in the future, using a microchip, photos, or veterinary records.
- The owner must euthanize the dog.
Nobody wants to kill another person’s pet, and the hearing authority is extremely reluctant to euthanize a dog when other remedies are available.
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Was Someone You Love Harmed by a Dog?
A dog attack is a traumatic experience, especially when it happens to a child. The physical and emotional damage can take years to heal.
You shouldn’t have to pay your own medical bills when your injuries were caused by another person’s negligence. Our team at DiBella Law Offices, P.C. can file a claim to help you get the money you need for a full recovery.
Call a personal injury attorney at (978) 327-5140 to learn more today. We offer a FREE consultation, and you don’t pay anything unless we win you a settlement.