Dangerous Dogs and Owners’ Responsibilities | Zirkin & Schmerling Law

The Meaning of a Dangerous Dog and an Owner’s Responsibility

Here in Maryland, we’ve seen many stories about dangerous dogs in the news. There have been many vicious attacks in our area – some of which have led to severe injuries and even deaths.

Baltimore is one of the nation’s top cities for postal worker dog bites and is among the worst cities for dog bites in general. But it’s not just a Baltimore problem. A dog attack can happen almost anywhere and anytime.

At Zirkin & Schmerling Law, we’ve noticed that the average person isn’t informed about Maryland’s dog bite laws and doesn’t know whether their own dog could be considered dangerous. Read on to learn more about our state’s definition of a dangerous dog and dog owners’ responsibilities.

How Maryland Defines a Dangerous Dog

First, let’s look at how Maryland defines a dangerous dog in the language of the law. According to Maryland Code Section 10-619, a “dangerous dog” is a dog that:

Without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person or is determined by the appropriate unit of a county or municipal corporation to be a potentially dangerous dog and, after the determination is made: bites a person, or when not on its owner’s real property, kills or inflicts severe injury on a domestic animal, or attacks without provocation.

In this definition, a severe injury is defined as “a physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.” So if someone needs stitches due to a dog bite, the dog in question may be viewed as a dangerous dog from that moment forward.

It’s important to point out that Maryland’s dangerous dog definition begins with the phrase, “without provocation.” It matters whether someone provokes a dog to attack. Sometimes people poke, prod, or tease a dog into biting.

If someone contributes to a dog attack by provoking the dog, they can be barred from recovering compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Known as the contributory negligence rule, it means when a court finds someone is even 1% responsible for the dog attack, the dog’s owner doesn’t owe them any money. 

Sometimes the dog owner will use this defense of contributory negligence when it is not relevant.  For example, a 2-year-old baby is unlikely to have contributed in provoking the dog regardless of the baby’s actions.  To beat the contributory negligence defense, it is very fact specific and must be reviewed by an attorney in great detail.

Dog Owners, Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a dog owner, you should make sure you know the full extent of Maryland’s laws regarding dangerous dogs. Here are a few things you may not realize.

A dog owner is prohibited from leaving a dangerous dog unattended on their property unless it is either confined indoors, in a securely enclosed and locked pen, or in another type of structure designed to restrain the animal. This means you can’t simply tie up a dangerous dog outside and leave the house.

A dangerous dog is not allowed to leave your property unless it is leashed and muzzled. And if you give or sell a dangerous dog to someone else, you are obligated to notify the authorities of the name and contact information of the new owner.

Dog owners who violate these rules are subject to a fine of up to $2,500. In some cases, the authorities may intervene to remove the dog from an owner’s care temporarily or permanently.

Also if a dog bite happens when the owner isn’t present, it’s especially important whether the dog has been deemed a dangerous dog in the past. For example, when a dog has never bitten anyone before and bites a groomer, the dog’s owner may be able to show that the groomer assumed the risk. But if the groomer can prove that the dog viciously attacked someone previously, the owner may be held responsible for the groomer’s injuries.

One more thing: Maryland is a breed-neutral state for dog bite laws. In Maryland, an injured person can sue someone or make an insurance claim regardless of the dog’s breed. And a dog’s owner won’t automatically be found responsible simply because it’s a pit bull or any other breed.

Take Action After a Dog Bite

Whether you’re a dog’s owner or the victim of a bite, you can take action after an injury by contacting an experienced Maryland dog bite lawyer at Zirkin & Schmerling Law. We have extensive experience with dog bite cases and we can help you understand your legal options.

Have a Legal Question? We Have Answers

When you need to learn more about your rights, the attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law can help. Contact us or call us at (410) 753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our experienced dog bite lawyers today.

Baltimore is one of the nation’s top cities for postal worker dog bites and is among the worst cities for dog bites in general. But it’s not just a Baltimore problem. A dog attack can happen almost anywhere and anytime.

At Zirkin & Schmerling Law, we’ve noticed that the average person isn’t informed about Maryland’s dog bite laws and doesn’t know whether their own dog could be considered dangerous. Read on to learn more about our state’s definition of a dangerous dog and dog owners’ responsibilities.

How Maryland Defines a Dangerous Dog

First, let’s look at how Maryland defines a dangerous dog in the language of the law. According to Maryland Code Section 10-619, a “dangerous dog” is a dog that:

Without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person or is determined by the appropriate unit of a county or municipal corporation to be a potentially dangerous dog and, after the determination is made: bites a person, or when not on its owner’s real property, kills or inflicts severe injury on a domestic animal, or attacks without provocation.

In this definition, a severe injury is defined as “a physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.” So if someone needs stitches due to a dog bite, the dog in question may be viewed as a dangerous dog from that moment forward.

It’s important to point out that Maryland’s dangerous dog definition begins with the phrase, “without provocation.” It matters whether someone provokes a dog to attack. Sometimes people poke, prod, or tease a dog into biting.

If someone contributes to a dog attack by provoking the dog, they can be barred from recovering compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Known as the contributory negligence rule, it means when a court finds someone is even 1% responsible for the dog attack, the dog’s owner doesn’t owe them any money. 

Sometimes the dog owner will use this defense of contributory negligence when it is not relevant.  For example, a 2-year-old baby is unlikely to have contributed in provoking the dog regardless of the baby’s actions.  To beat the contributory negligence defense, it is very fact specific and must be reviewed by an attorney in great detail.

Dog Owners, Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a dog owner, you should make sure you know the full extent of Maryland’s laws regarding dangerous dogs. Here are a few things you may not realize.

A dog owner is prohibited from leaving a dangerous dog unattended on their property unless it is either confined indoors, in a securely enclosed and locked pen, or in another type of structure designed to restrain the animal. This means you can’t simply tie up a dangerous dog outside and leave the house.

A dangerous dog is not allowed to leave your property unless it is leashed and muzzled. And if you give or sell a dangerous dog to someone else, you are obligated to notify the authorities of the name and contact information of the new owner.

Dog owners who violate these rules are subject to a fine of up to $2,500. In some cases, the authorities may intervene to remove the dog from an owner’s care temporarily or permanently.

Also if a dog bite happens when the owner isn’t present, it’s especially important whether the dog has been deemed a dangerous dog in the past. For example, when a dog has never bitten anyone before and bites a groomer, the dog’s owner may be able to show that the groomer assumed the risk. But if the groomer can prove that the dog viciously attacked someone previously, the owner may be held responsible for the groomer’s injuries.

One more thing: Maryland is a breed-neutral state for dog bite laws. In Maryland, an injured person can sue someone or make an insurance claim regardless of the dog’s breed. And a dog’s owner won’t automatically be found responsible simply because it’s a pit bull or any other breed.

Take Action After a Dog Bite

Whether you’re a dog’s owner or the victim of a bite, you can take action after an injury by contacting an experienced Maryland dog bite lawyer at Zirkin & Schmerling Law. We have extensive experience with dog bite cases and we can help you understand your legal options.

Have a Legal Question? We Have Answers

When you need to learn more about your rights, the attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law can help. Contact us or call us at (410) 753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our experienced dog bite lawyers today.