Be Informed: Understanding the Dangerous Dog Law

As a dog owner, do you know your rights?

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Here’s the situation:  Law enforcement receives a complaint that your dog may be a threat to others.  Police or animal control arrive at your house insisting you hand over your dog right away.  As a dog owner, do you know your rights?  Here’s what you should know if you find yourself in this situation.

Know the law.  Most relevant in these types of cases is the “Dangerous Dog” law in New York.  Familiarize yourself with the definition of “dangerous”.   A dangerous dog means any dog that physically attacks another animal or person and causes physical injury or death without justification, or behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to another animal or person without justification.   Did your neighbor call the police because your dog won’t stop barking? Was your dog running around unsupervised? If so, chances are your dog is not considered “dangerous” and you are not required to release him/her to anyone without an order to seize by the court. 

Location of your dog.  When your dog is in your possession on your property, you are under no obligation to release your dog to anyone unless you are presented with an order to seize by the court.  Do not be pressured into surrendering your dog without this court order.

Know what you’re signing.  If you’re asked to sign papers, it is very important to know what you are signing.  There have been worst-case scenarios were unsuspecting dog owners sign consent to euthanize-don’t let this happen to you.  If you are legally required to release your dog to the authorities as per a court order, be certain you are aware of where your dog is going and what the next steps are.

Most importantly- remember that being a good pet owner is knowing how to care for your pets at all times and during all types of situations.  Stay calm, don’t rush, ask questions, and be informed. 

-A special thank you to Robert Sowers of the NCSPCA for his input and guidance.  For further information regarding animal laws, cruelty reporting, and other matters, check out the NCSPCA website.