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Dangerous & Vicious Dogs

Being able to recognize the difference between a dangerous dog and non dangerous dog, can make the difference between keeping your child or loved one safe and a tragedy.

It must be first understood that a thing, activity, person or a dog should be considered "dangerous" if it presents an unacceptably high risk of serious injury, even before causing harm.

When determining whether a dog is "dangerous," the issue is not whether that particular dog will ever bite, but whether it presents too great a risk of serious injury -- not because of what it has done, but because of what others of its class have done. The definition also uses the term "serious injury." A dog can be legally classified as "dangerous" or "vicious" based upon its actions, its breed, or the actions of its owner, either before or after an official hearing, pursuant to the law of the jurisdiction where the dog is present.

The laws of a state often make a distinction between the words "dangerous" and "vicious." When both words are used, "dangerous" usually refers to the risk of harm by any action of the dog, whether or not benign, such as biting, jumping, slamming against, grabbing, swiping with its paws, and over-friendliness that is expressed as jumping upon. For example, a dog that has the habit of running to a person and jumping enthusiastically upon him could be considered dangerous because of the risk of harm to an elderly pedestrian.

A dog's propensity to chase and fight with other domestic animals should be considered dangerous to people because of the high number of serious injuries to people that occur during such incidents. The term "vicious" refers to a dog that has done or communicated by its actions an intention, habit, tendency or propensity to do something harmful to people. For example, a dog that has a habit of jumping upon people might be considered dangerous but not vicious.

The basis for classifying a dog as "dangerous" or "vicious" differs from one jurisdiction to the next. All jurisdictions are interested in eliminating that which poses unacceptable risk, but from place to place the focus of the "dangerous dog law" can be the actions of a particular dog, its breed, or the acts or omissions of its owner. In some jurisdictions, for example, a dog that threatens a person but does not inflict actual physical injuries is classified as dangerous, whereas in other places it is not. In some places, a dog is regarded as dangerous if the owner of the dog has violated certain animal control rules more than a given number of times. In a sense, the owner is actually the dangerous one, and the dog's confinement or existence is regulated not because of the dog's behavior but because of its potential to create harm in the hands of that particular owner. Also, as noted above, several nations and American cities classify certain breeds as "dangerous" simply on the basis of breed, and regardless of any particular dog's disposition, temperament or behavior.

In conclusion, although we may feel that we know a dangerous dog when we see one, it turns out that dangerousness is a political and controversial topic, and the laws about it are confusing and contradictory. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog, call our Law Office at 800-862-1260.

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