Michigan Dog Law

Liability Statute

Under this statute, a dog owner is absolutely liable for injuries caused by his or her dog, regardless of the owner's knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities, in cases where the injury occurred on public property or while the victim was lawfully on private property. The only exception is when the injury occurred because the injured person provoked the dog or if the person was trespassing or attempting to commit an unlawful act. Under this statute, any negligence on the part of the injured person is no defense.

Common Law Liability

In addition to seeking recovery for damages under Michigan's Dog Bite Statute, victims of dog bites can also seek to recover money damages under the common law. The common law, however, requires that the injured person prove that the owner's negligence caused the injury.

Dangerous Dog Statute

Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"

A "dangerous dog" is:

  • a dog that bites or attacks a person; or
  • a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the dog owner's property or under the dog owner's control.
  • Under the statute, a dangerous dog does not include an animal that bites or attacks a trespasser, a dog that bites or attacks a person who provokes or torments the animal, or a dog that is responding in a manner that an ordinary and reasonable person would conclude was designed to protect a person if that person is engaged in a lawful activity or is being assaulted.
  • If a dog is declared dangerous by a judge because it caused serious injury or death to a person or another dog, the judge must enter an order that requires the dog to be destroyed. If the judge finds that the dog is dangerous but did not cause serious injury or death, the dog may still be destroyed, or the court may take any action appropriate to protect the public from the dog.

Dog Owners' Liability

  • In addition to being subject to civil liability, the owner of a dangerous dog that kills a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
  • The owner of a dangerous dog that attacks a person and causes serious injury, other than death, is guilty of a felony punishable by up to four years imprisonment, a fine not less than $2,000, community service work for not less than 500 hours, or any combination of these penalties. Serious injury means a permanent, serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment of a bodily function.
  • If an animal was previously found to be dangerous and the dog attacks or bites a person and causes an injury that is not serious, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of not more than 90 days, a fine up to $500, community service work for not less than 240 hours, or any combination of these penalties.
  • If the owner of an animal that is previously adjudicated to be a dangerous animal allows the animal to run at large, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for no more than 90 days, a fine of no less than $250, or community service work for no less than 240 hours, or any combination of these penalties.

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