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Appeals Court: Dog Not Dangerous Until It Bites Someone

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Image credit: Michigan Supreme Court

The court recently ruled in a case in which a dog was shot by a police officer who said he felt threatened.

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Michigan Hall of Justice, where the Michigan Court of Appeals is housed.Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan Hall of Justice, where the Michigan Court of Appeals is housed.

A dog in Michigan is not considered legally dangerous until it bites or attacks someone. That’s the word from the state Court of Appeals.

An Eaton County couple was charged with knowingly owning a dangerous animal after their dog, Roscoe, got through a fence and attacked a lawn care worker employed by a neighbor.

The dog was shot to death by a police officer called to the scene, who said he felt threatened.

There was evidence presented at trial that some neighbors were nervous about the dog, and that it could sometimes behave aggressively, such as attacking a lawnmower and biting the tires. A neighbor said the dog’s behavior made him nervous enough to carry a gun while he was cutting the grass.

But there was no evidence that Roscoe had ever attacked a person before.

And that’s why the state Court of Appeals said the couple should never have been charged. The judges said Michigan law does not take into account an animal’s aggressive behavior. It simply states a dog is not considered dangerous until it has bitten a person. 


Rick Pluta, REPORTER / PRODUCER - MICHIGAN PUBLIC RADIO NETWORK

Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.

Follow @rickpluta

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