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What to Do If an Off-Leash Dog Bites Me in Michigan

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Dogs are the most loyal companions and guardians; however, dog bite statistics are horrific – about 4.7 million dog bites occur annually in the USA, and more than 800,000 require medical care! There are specific statutes to protect you from dog bites and several remedies if you have been attacked. A good dog bite lawyer can advise on the best course of action, and legal action by the victim ensures there is a clear message to negligent dog owners that their negligence will not go unpunished.

First Steps if a Dog Bites You

  • Move to a safe area as soon as possible to prevent further attacks and stay calm.
  • Get medical attention immediately- an animal’s saliva is teeming with at least six different serious bacteria that can cause infection and tissue damage. Animal bites also cause lacerations, serious tissue damage and disfigurement, and potentially life-threatening bleeding. Small puncture wounds to the hands are often dismissed as not serious; however, the fangs can inject bacteria deep into the tissue that is particularly dangerous to hands and feet. Do not discount the psychological trauma. Infections may include Rabies, Pasteurella, MRSA, Tetanus, or Capnocytophaga.
  • Get as much information as possible from the owner and take pictures of the dog, site of attack, and wounds. If the dog got out of his premises due to a faulty gate or broken fence, take photographs of the neglect.
  • If the dog is a stray or there is no owner in sight, try to take a picture of the animal or record as much detail about it as possible. Ask neighbors in the area if they had seen the dog before.
  • Get witness details and statements, and if possible, consult with neighbors of the owner to see if there have been issues before with the dog being off-leash.
  • Report the attack as soon as possible – to both the Police and the Michigan Humane Society. Let the animal control officer know in which direction the animal moved after the attack so they can catch it and contain it.
  • Gather as much evidence as you can – the police report and number, the Humane Society report, other animal control records, photographs taken at the time of the attack of the site, the animal, the wounds, follow-up photographs of your wounds, medical records and any other records required to make a case (for example, for lost wages).
  • Do not sign any papers presented by an insurance agent without legal advice.
  • Speak to a dog bite attorney Michigan, such as Cochran, Kroll & Associates, PC., regarding your options to pursue legal remedies. We can assist you with securing compensation for your medical costs and other injury-related losses.

Dog Bite Statistics

  • 4.7 million dog bites per annum.
  • 6% require medical care (more than 800,00).
  • 433 people killed by dogs between 2005 and 2017
    • 284 by Pit Bulls
    • 45 by Rottweilers
    • 20 by German Shepherds
    • 19 of these in Michigan (number 6 in the country)
  • Two or more dogs in the home – adults are five times more likely to be bitten, mostly males.
  • Half the dog bites happen at home, with dogs familiar with victims.

Michigan Dog Bite and Leash Laws

There are more than 20 Causes of Action available to victims of dog bites in general, for example:

  • Strict Liability Based on the Dog Bite Statute.
  • Common Law Strict Liability for Dangerous Propensity.
  • Negligence.
  • Negligence Per Se Based on Violation of the Leash Law (or any law intended to prevent a dog attack).
  • Intentional Tort (deliberately “siccing” a dog on to a person).
  • Battery for Intentionally Causing Dog to Attack (such as setting up the circumstances that resulted in the dog attack).
  • Premises Liability (broken or non-functional fence or gate that allowed the dog to escape).
  • Residential Landlord Liability for Tenant’s Dog.
  • Commercial Landlord Liability for Presence of Vicious Dog.
  • Wrongful Death, and others.

However, the three overriding theories most commonly used in Michigan include the dog bite statute (statutory strict liability), common law strict liability, or common law negligence. Your dog bite lawyer can assist you with the applicable state laws and city ordinances.

Michigan Dog Bite Statute

The dog bite statute in Michigan (MCL287.351) allows you to file a claim against an owner for a dog bite without having to prove negligence. It does not matter if the dog is aggressive or not. However, if you were trespassing or inciting the dog, you are precluded from filing a claim.

Common Law – Strict Liability

This includes instances where the owner knew or reasonably should have known of the animal’s abnormal dangerous proclivities. Thus, if they purposely kept a vicious dog, they can be held liable under common law strict liability.

Common Law – Negligence

If the owner, keeper or possessor was negligent in failing to prevent foreseeable harm, regardless of knowledge of dangerous proclivities, they are liable under common law negligence. This may include not using a leash when required, failure to display signage, or not paying attention to the dog’s actions. City ordinances and public places fall under common law negligence.

Trespassing and Provocation

Trespassing and provocation will disqualify your claim, but what exactly is trespassing? If you entered the premises without permission to do so or if you entered the premises legally, but for the purpose of performing an illegal act, you are trespassing.

Provocation includes any attempt at annoying the dog, such as threatening, hitting, kicking, prodding, pushing, pulling his tail, teasing, hurting or harming in any way. Small children may be excluded from the provocation clause as they may not understand that the dog is not playing. This can get complicated.


Landlords can be held liable for a tenant’s dog attack, for failure to have an aggressive dog removed.

City Leash Laws and Ordinances

Many cities have additional Leash Laws and Ordinances that your legal counsel will be able to explain.

One-bite States

Michigan is not one of the so-called ‘one-bite’ states, where the owner is not liable if it is the first time the dog bit someone.

Statute of Limitations

You can file a claim up to three years from the date of the bite; thereafter, it will most likely not be heard.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?

If trying to resolve a dispute regarding a dog bite injury amicably cannot be achieved, or you have concerns that the insurance adjuster is trying to damage your case or offering too little too fast, you must seek legal counsel with a good firm of dog bite lawyers in Michigan. As there are so many statutes that protect you from dog bite injuries, it is best to let the experts consider and guide your course of action.

If you live in Michigan, call Eileen Kroll, a registered nurse and personal injury trial attorney, at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., at 866-MICH-LAW. She is qualified to advise on both the severity of the injury and the legal remedies available to you. Be sure to note the statute of limitations, so you do not miss your opportunity to file.

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.

Nikole has a special interest in medical-legal issues and holds post-basic degrees in medical law and business. She has developed quality improvement and safety plans for many practices and facilities to prevent medical-legal issues and teaches several courses on data protection and privacy, legal, medical examinations and documentation, and professional ethics. She has been writing professionally on legal, business, ethics, patient advocacy, research and medico-legal issues in articles, white papers, business plans, and training courses for over thirty-five years.



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