Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds and those that suffer from aggression problems.
Defending Your Dog in Court
Most of us with big dogs want to have our pets declared safe so that if something happens, they will not be considered vicious. But is there anything you can do to foil those that do not approve of your dog? Yes, there is.
How to Prove That Your Dog Is Safe
The best way to prove that your dog is not dangerous is to prevent anything from happening. While this may be impossible in all instances, here are a few good things you can do in the meantime.
Ways to Prove That Your Dog Is Safe
- Canine good citizen test (AKC): This is really a great way to start proving that your dog is safe around people and other dogs. If your dog has been declared a good citizen, it means that you have taken some effort to have him trained and she is comfortable around others. (Dogs that are locked in the backyard on a chain all of the time are not likely to earn this award and if they attack, they are more likely to be condemned by the judge.) Although this is an AKC certificate, your dog does not need to be registered with them to earn this. Talk to your local trainer or look at the website for information on how to get started in your area.
- Therapy dog certification: If you want to go above and beyond the Canine Good Citizen certificate, having your dog declared a therapy animal is the best way to go. Animal control will have a hard time declaring that your dog is not allowed off of your property when he has already spent hundreds of hours visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Just like with the easier Good Citizen certificate, your dog does not need to be purebred or registered with the AKC to get a certificate.
- DNA testing: If your dog is a mixed breed, I recommend you pay for the testing. The testing does not do much and will not save your dog's life if there is a vicious attack, but there are a lot of misconceptions among the non-dog owning public and some judges and juries will consider dogs that are part “Pitbull” to be aggressive. If the DNA testing comes back and shows that your dog's blocky head is due to having Labrador genes, your life will become a lot simpler if you ever have to go to court. Although the Embark test is not cheap, it is the best product that I have used. Others available at cheap discount stores may not be taken seriously if you and your dog end up in court.
Will Your Dog Be Delcared Dangerous Anyway?
If your dog does bite someone, the first thing you need to be concerned about is the health of the person who was injured. (If you are concerned and try to help, the person may not even sue you and your dog.) After the incident, of course, no matter what you do, you may be sued. Some states, like California, make the dog owner responsible for all of the expenses even if the dog has never bitten. Other states have the one-bite rule and do not penalize excessively if this has never happened.
During this process, or even before, the person may then complain to the local animal control official and they may take you to court so that your dog is declared dangerous.
What You Need to Provide to Prove Your Dog Is Not Dangerous
- An alibi, if the dog was not even responsible for the bite. (Yes, animal control does go after the wrong dog at times. If you can prove that your dog was not responsible for the bite, the case may go no further.)
- Proof of rabies vaccination status and the address of your veterinarian. Your vet can also provide information on the dog's health status, if relevant. (If the dog has arthritis, cancer, or any other problem that makes it difficult for him to get around, you need to prove this to animal control and the court.)
- A certificate proving that the dog has been through training. If he has been through the canine good citizen program be sure to bring the certificate, and it is a good idea to print out the details of the program so that you can submit it to the judge who will determine if your dog is dangerous.
- Any DNA testing that proves your dog's breed.
Finding an Attorney to Help
Although there are some lawyers that work mostly with dog bite cases, a dog is considered property and any lawyer that works in property law is adequate. Almost all of us want a lawyer that has handled dog issues before, of course, so if you want an experienced lawyer here is what you can do.
How to Find an Attorney for Your Dog
- Call your veterinarian and ask for a referral from a lawyer who deals with dog bites.
- Call your dog trainer or local shelter and see if they can refer you to an attorney that helps dogs that are threatened with being declared dangerous.
- Check Google by entering “lawyer to defend dog deemed dangerous” and the name of your city and state.
- Check the website for the American Bar Association.
What About a Certificate Stating My Dog Is Not Dangerous?
This would be a lot easier if it could be avoided with a simple test and certificate. Unfortunately, there is no jurisdiction in which your dog can obtain a certificate stating that he is not now and never will be dangerous.
This sounds very unfair and I would really like a guarantee like this, but if you think about it, this applies to people as well. If you hurt someone, you are condemned as a violent person but there is no group that will give you a certificate saying that you will never hurt someone.
A few years ago, a carpenter who was doing some work for me came over and grabbed one of my Pitbulls around the waist. I have trained her to accept all sorts of handling since she was a puppy, and I routinely open her mouth, feel between her toes, etc. The carpenter was not abusing my dog (or I would have stopped him) but the dog did look at me with a confused face. She was upset and most dogs without proper socialization would have bitten at that point. Yes, dog owners do realize that it can happen anytime.
So if your dog bites, what happens if she is declared dangerous? If it is the first bite, some legislative regions will only demand that you keep the dog confined to a fenced yard, keep the dog muzzled when walking outside of the yard, etc. The judge will have the power to order your dog to be euthanized, however, so please follow the steps I outlined at the beginning of this article and do your best to avoid court.
Read More From Pethelpful
Train your dog to not feel the need to bite.
- Canine Good Citizen program: This site will familiarize you with the program and help you find classes you and your dog can attend.
- Therapy dog program
- Dangerous dogs: ALDF is an organization that deals with animal defense.
- Finding an Attorney: As well the resources listed above, you can contact the American Bar Association to find a property lawyer if you are in the US.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2019 Dr Mark
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 09, 2020:
Sorry Nick that is a really tough situation. Boerboels are going to have a hard time, just because of their looks, and unless you can hire a lawyer to argue this you are probably going to lose. I am not sure where you are at but a lot of places have a "one bite law" and if the dog has never bitten before the judge will let him off. If it is a second offense most likely the judge will be harsher.
If you guys do get through this, expect to pay a lot more for homeowners insurance.
Nick Greci on June 09, 2020:
While Walking my Boerbeal,My Neighbor approched me,We Spoke the Dog was Wagging hiis Tail,He jumped up and Nipped Her Twice,The Police Animal Control,Her Attorney is Suing my Homeowners,I have to go to court under Dangerous Dog Act,i do not have big Bucks for Lawyers,And do not want to put down my 20 minth old pup,What can i Do
femi on March 02, 2019:
In my country(West Africa Region) some of the tests and certification are not available. We generally keep dogs as pests or guard dogs.
I have had different types of dogs over 20 year period and i love them. However i believe every dog is dangerous despite training or certification, by their natural instinct they will protect the owner against intruders or aggressors.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 27, 2019:
That's a good point.Supervision is key. I am by nature very cautious. I noticed that the parents keep a close eye on them both.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 27, 2019:
Hi Liz, I am not sure if you want to hear this at this point, but it can be dangerous to let any dog with a toddler unless closely supervised. The problem is not the dog so much as the toddler. If you push your dog, and he growls, you stop. A toddler not might recognize that warning growl and continue with his behavior, which the poor dog has already told him was "ENOUGH".
I have also read statistics on the biting incidents of Labradors. I am not sure they are true, because we both know that stats can be altered to say whatever the person wants to say, but it is worth being cautious.
I had a small dog when my son was a toddler, but I do not think that is a good solution either. When he would get rambunctious and fall on the dog the poor animal would be injured. Thank goodness that rarely happens with Labs.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 27, 2019:
I was a little wary of how a labrador would take to a new baby in the house, despite others assuring me that this breed of dog is traditionally good with children. I need not have worried. My sympathy is now with the labrador, who puts up with the teasing of a toddler with great tolerance.