What If My Dog Bites a Trespasser – Explained By Personal Injury Attorney Muskegon

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In Michigan, several dog bite laws can protect you if your dog bites an intruder. Even severe dog bite cases could be dismissed in court if the victim was a confirmed intruder attempting to rob your house. Two primary defenses can exempt dog owners from liability in Michigan: provocation and trespassing.

However, other factors can make dog bite cases complex, including the definition of a trespasser. For example, people you invite to your property or delivery personnel are not considered trespassers. In fact, if you fail to comply with specific dog laws, such as licensing and leash requirements, you may be held liable. In these and many other cases, a personal injury lawyer in Muskegon can represent you in court.

Understanding Dog Bite Laws in Michigan

Assume you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of asking, “What if my dog bites a trespasser?” There are several dog bite laws in Michigan that you need to understand. Here are some of them:

“Strict Liability” Dog Bite Statute

Michigan has a strict liability law for dog bites, which means that the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or damage, whether on public or private property. However, there are exemptions to this rule, as follows:

        • If the victim provoked your dog
        • If the victim was a trespasser who illegally entered your property
        • If the victim was on your property to commit a criminal or unlawful act

Trespassing and Liability 

The trespassing statute is necessary in the context of dog law because it can exempt the dog owner from liability when the victim is a trespasser. According to the Michigan Penal Code, a trespasser is someone who illegally enters or refuses to leave someone else’s property even after being asked to do so. It could also be someone who was granted permission to enter your property but have intentions to commit a crime while being there. 

Another important concept to consider is the notion of “implied” permission, which allows strangers to enter your property for a specific purpose. In these cases, they are not considered trespassers, even if you did not explicitly permit them. As a result, if your dog bites them, you may be held responsible for the incident.

Definition of a “Dangerous Animal” 

In Michigan, a dangerous animal is any animal or dog that attacks another dog or person without provocation while under the owner’s control. This statute is necessary because a person bitten by your dog can appear in court and testify that your pet is a “dangerous animal,” and your dog could be put down. The court recognizes, however, that not all dogs that bite are dangerous, and you have the opportunity to refute the claim and present evidence that your pet does not pose a danger.

Legal Responsibility of Dog Owners in Michigan

Generally, you could be liable for the injuries caused by your dog’s bite if you are negligent. You are responsible for not acting reasonably to prevent your dog from biting someone. As a result, you must comply with certain legal obligations to protect others and your dog. Here are some of the provisions of Michigan’s Dog Law:

        • The county treasurer requires all dogs over six months old to be licensed.
        • You must always keep your dog on a leash when they are not on your property.
        • You must keep female dogs in heat on your property or muzzled and leashed.
        • The local animal control authority may impound dogs that are a nuisance or a threat to public safety.

Reporting and Consequences

If your dog bites someone, you must immediately restrain it to prevent further harm. Then, call 911 for medical assistance and report the incident to the relevant authorities, such as animal control or the police. It’s also best to immediately contact a personal injury lawyer in Muskegon who can provide guidance and prepare you for the possible legal consequences.

The animal control authority will investigate the case and decide on penalties or consequences depending on the results. Here are some of the consequences a dog owner may face under Michigan’s Dog Law:

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Civil Liability  The victim may receive compensation for medical costs, lost wages, and other damages.
“Dangerous Animal” Designation Your dog could face restrictions, be impounded, or even be euthanized.
Criminal Cases You may be prosecuted for misdemeanor assault, reckless endangerment, or involuntary manslaughter, depending on the seriousness of the incident.

Seeking Legal Advice and Guidance

A dog bite incident in Michigan can have serious legal consequences if you are unfamiliar with your rights. Even if your dog bites a trespasser, it’s still a good idea to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer in Muskegon specializing in dog bite law.

It is better to be prepared than to be caught off guard because of the assumption that the incident can be resolved without legal representation. Shafer Swartz PLC can assist you in understanding your legal options and rights. Whether it involves negotiating a settlement or representing you in court, our team is dedicated to safeguarding your rights and protecting the best interests of both you and your pet dog. For an appointment, reach us here or call (231) 722-2444. 


DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice. Every situation is different, and if you have been injured, please call (231) 722-2444 for personalized legal advice.