Why Statewide Dangerous Dog Laws Are Needed Everywhere

What happens when the county says a dog is a vicious dog, and the dog owner takes his dog to a nearby city? Is the dog perfectly legal in the city? If the county ordered it to be muzzled, for example, does it have to be muzzled in the city?

A user of Dog Bite Law just emailed me with that question. It’s a big problem, I told him. Here is what I said:

You actually have discovered one of the many problems in dog bite law: which dangerous dog law should be applied in any given circumstances?

Your question has to do with the possible conflicts among state, county and city law. If something is legal under one law but illegal under another, which law applies? If a dog is dangerous under one law but not dangerous under another, which law applies?

This is a chaotic area of dog bite law. I have noted that animal control hearing officers use this clash to predetermine the outcome of dangerous dog hearings. I.e., if they want to put down a dog, they will choose the law that allows them to do it; if they want a dog to live, they will choose the law that allows them to so rule.

Generally, the solution is for the state to enact a dangerous dog law, containing not only the usual provisions but a section that explicitly makes the law binding throughout the state.

Most states can do this, although in one notable instance (Denver’s ban on pit bulls), it was held that the state could not.

For further information, see Dog Bite Victims Need an Attorney for Dog Court.