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What Happens if a Support Dog Bites You?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

What happens if a support dog bites you? It’s a tough question, and there is some ambiguity in the answer. In instances of dog bites, it’s always useful to seek out the help of a dog bite lawyer. In the meantime, here are some steps to help you seek justice, as well as some clarification surrounding dog bite laws in Michigan.

1. Seek legal help

Legal help comes in many forms, the most obvious of which is a dog bite lawyer or a top personal injury lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C.

But there is also help in the form of legal precedent. Look into support dog bite cases in states which, like Michigan, have strict owner liability law. Get a feel for legal history and your rights and talk to a lawyer at our law firm today.

2. Service dogs versus support dogs

There is a very real difference between service dogs and emotional support dogs. Service dogs undergo extensive training, possess certifications, are the only dogs legally permitted to wear service dog vests. These vests, in turn, inform the public not to touch, pet or otherwise interfere with the dog during its work.

Emotional support dogs are a different matter. There is not the same centralized governing body overseeing their certification or training, and while they serve a key purpose in our society, they do not perform the same level of work that a service dog would.

Michigan is a strict liability state, which means that the owner is almost always responsible for the dog bite. If someone is bitten by a service dog who is wearing a standardized vest that says, “do not pet,” then the law might not look favorably upon the person bitten. It is simply more likely, in that case, that the person bitten did something that could be classified as “provoking a service dog.”

These qualifications do not apply in the same way to a support dog. Support dogs are much more likely to fall under more standard classifications.

3. Understand dog owner liability

Michigan is a strict liability state, which is legally defined according to Act 73 of 1939, 287.351, Section 1. This act dictates the parameters around dog bite liability:

(1) If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

This means that even if the dog:

  • had never bitten anyone before
  • had never previously shown aggressive tendencies
  • was off-leash
  • was on-leash
  • was on public land or any private property

…then the dog owner is responsible, even if the dog never previously showed vicious tendencies.

4. Know when the dog owner is not liable

On the flip side, there are some situations in which the dog bite is not the owner’s responsibility. In this case, it’s usually because the bite victim was engaged in illegal activity or had provoked the dog. For the dog owner to not be responsible, the person bitten must have been engaging in one or more of the following activities:

  • Provoking the dog
  • Teasing the dog
  • Tormenting the dog
  • Trying to get the dog to bite him or her for the sake of pursuing a dog bite lawsuit
  • Trespassing on private property
  • Intending to perform an illegal activity after gaining lawful entry to a household or property
  • Intending to perform an illegal activity on public property

In these cases, the dog owner is not liable. If you’ve been bitten under these circumstances, it’s fair to want to know your rights, but it’s also useful to realize your case might not go far in court.

5. Pursue justice

Dog bites can carry a host of bacteria and other diseases, as well as inflicting serious damage and intense pain. As such, you as a victim deserve compensation and justice. Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. offer free case evaluations from top personal injury lawyers and are available 24 hours a day on a toll-free line for any legal questions you might have. Call today to seek justice at 866-MICH-LAW.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she's not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn's writing center.



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