Massachusetts Dog Law

Liability Statute

If any dog injures a person, the dog's owner or keeper will be liable for damages, so long as the victim was not committing a trespass or other tort or was not teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog at the time of the injury. In cases where the victim is under seven years old, the law presumes that the child was not committing a trespass or other tort and was not teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, and the burden of proof is on the defendant. Finally, in cases where the dog is owned by a minor, the child's parent or guardian will be liable for damages.

Treble Damages Statute

In Massachusetts, local authorities can issue orders regarding control of certain dogs. If a local authority orders a dog to be restrained, and the dog thereafter injures a person, the dog's owner or keeper will be liable in treble, or triple, the amount of damages sustained.

Dangerous Dog Statute

A person may file a complaint to the hearing authority to determine whether a dog is a nuisance dog or a dangerous dog.

If a dog is deemed to be dangerous, the hearing authority will order one or more of the following:

  • The dog shall be humanely restrained to an inanimate object.
  • The dog shall be confined to the owner's premises.
  • When removed from the owner's premises, the dog shall be muzzled and restrained with a tethering device having a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds and not exceeding three feet in length.
  • The dog's owner shall maintain at least $100,000 in liability insurance.
  • The dog shall be euthanized.

No dog shall be deemed dangerous:

  • based solely upon growling or barking
  • based upon breed
  • if the dog was reacting to another person or animal and the reaction was not grossly disproportionate to:
    • the dog protecting or defending itself
    • the injured person attacked or threatened by the dog was committing a crime upon the person or property of the dog's owner
    • the injured person attacked, teased, or provoked the dog
    • the injured person breached the dog's enclosure and was not authorized to do so

Back to state dog law map

Get Answers to Your Questions:

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

Note: Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, although if you are injured in an accident, we have relationships with other personal injury attorneys and lawyers throughout the United States.