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Dangerous Dog Laws: Failing to Give Man’s Best Friend a Fair Shake at Justice

Cynthia A. McNeely & Sarah A. Lindquist

3 J. Animal L. 99 (2007)
Publish Date:
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law
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Dangerous Dog Laws: Failing to Give Man’s Best Friend a Fair Shake at Justice

Compared to other non-human animals, dogs generally share a privileged relationship with humans. This 12-14,000-year-old union translates today into nearly 68 million domesticated dogs living in United States households. Dogs once had free reign to run through rural and even urban communities, but growing human populations and their similarly growing intolerance toward free-roaming dogs have initiated a government crackdown. Tethering dogs in yards has resulted in an unnatural state which studies indicate actually facilitates more humans receiving dog bites. Recent government trends have been to classify dogs “dangerous” to force “irresponsible owners” to better control their dogs. While some “owners” are undeniably irresponsible and deserve to be held accountable, a fair analysis of some of the factual situations underlying dangerous dog classifications indicates that too many local governments declare dogs dangerous who are not truly dangerous.  The classifications are generally based upon political pressure and governments’ fear of being legally held liable for any future attacks that might occur.  Combined with media-inflamed reports of rare, vicious dog attacks, many local governments are classifying dogs “dangerous” for engaging in normal and harmless dog behaviors such as running up to and barking at people. With the United States human population now at more than 300 million, it is foreseeable that this trend is only going to continue as developable land decreases, forcing humans to live closer together and to come into greater contact with neighbors' dogs.

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