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Maryland Dog Law


Liability Statute

Maryland does not have a Dog Bite Statute.

Common Law Liability

Under Maryland's common law, a dog owner is liable for injuries caused by his or her dog when the owner fails to exercise reasonable care, fails to control the animal, or fails to prevent the harm caused by the animal. The owner's knowledge of the dog's propensities is relevant in determining the degree of control a reasonable person would have taken under the circumstances. Even if the owner is unaware of the dog's mischievous propensity, the owner can still be found negligent if he failed to exercise reasonable care in controlling the animal or preventing the harm.

Dangerous Dog Statute

The Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"

Under Maryland law, a "dangerous dog" is:

  • a dog that, without provocation, has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person. A "severe injury" is one that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.
  • a dog that was determined by the appropriate local authority to be a "potentially dangerous dog" and thereafter bites a person;
  • a dog that, when off its owner's property, killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal; or
  • a dog that attacks without provocation.

This section does not apply to a dog owned by and working for a governmental or law enforcement unit.

The Meaning of a "Potentially Dangerous Dog"

A "potentially dangerous dog" is:

  • a dog that has bitten a person;
  • a dog that has killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal when not on its owner's property; or
  • a dog that has attacked without provocation.

Owners of a potentially dangerous dog must be notified of designation and reasons for it.

Legal Responsibilities of Owners of Dangerous Dogs

It is illegal for a dangerous dog owner to leave the dog unattended on the owner's property, unless it is either confined indoors or is securely enclosed outdoors in a locked pen or other structure designed to restrain the dog. It is also illegal to allow a dangerous dog to leave the owner's property unless the dog is securely restrained and muzzled.

Dog Owners' Liability

A person who violates the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $2,500. Counties, such as Hartford, may institute designations for vicious dogs and impose additional penalties for violations.

Back to state dog law map

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