SB 184 Creates penalties for owners of dogs that cause injury and creates an absolute defense against civil liability or prosecution for killing or injuring certain threatening dogs
Sponsor: Bartle
LR Number: 0563S.01I Fiscal Note: 0563-01
Committee: General Laws
Last Action: 2/10/2009 - Hearing Scheduled But Not Heard S General Laws Committee Journal Page:
Title: Calendar Position:
Effective Date: August 28, 2009

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Current Bill Summary


SB 184 - Under this act, a person has an absolute defense against civil liability or criminal prosecution for killing or injuring a dog, if such person's actions were based on the reasonable belief that he or she, or another person, was in imminent danger of being harmed by the dog. It is prima facie evidence that a person considered himself to be in "imminent danger" from a dog if the person had complained at least twice to the county sheriff or animal control authority that the dog had trespassed on his property, and on at least one of those occasions the person was in reasonable apprehension for his own safety, the safety of another person, or feared damage to livestock or property. County sheriffs and animal control authorities shall notify any dog owner about a trespassing complaint made against his or her dog. A court shall award all reasonable costs to the defendant in any such suit if evidence shows the defendant is entitled to the absolute defense as described. A person engaging in criminal activity at the time of an imminent danger dog threat shall not be entitled to the absolute defense created by this act.

The owner of a dog that bites, without substantial provocation, a person while in a public or lawful private place shall be strictly liable for damages to the bitten individual. Owners of such dogs shall also be strictly liable for any damage incurred to property or livestock by their dogs. If a dog owner is found liable by a court for such damages, the owner shall also be assessed a civil fine up to $1,000.

When a dog that has previously bitten a person or domestic animal without provocation, subsequently bites a person again, the owner shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. However, if the offense results in severe injury it shall be a Class A misdemeanor and if the previous biting episode also resulted in severe injury, it shall be a Class D felony. If the offense results in death it shall be a class C felony. Any such dog, or a dog that inflicts severe injury or death on the first biting occasion, shall be seized by the animal control authority or county sheriff who shall notify the dog's owner in writing. The dog shall be impounded for ten business days after notice has been provided to the owner, after which time the dog shall be destroyed. Appeal procedures are provided in the act.

The act's provisions do not apply to dogs that bite a person while such person is engaged in criminal activity at the time of attack. Certain instances of trespassing are not considered "criminal activity" under the act. Dogs owned or utilized by a law enforcement agency who bite in the course of their employ are exempt from the provisions of the act.

This act is similar to SB 834 (2008).

ERIKA JAQUES