Can The Court Order Your Dog Be Put Down?
You are living your worst nightmare. Your dog bit someone, and you are worried. It’s not just the civil suit. There’s a chance that the court will order that your dog be put down. Meanwhile, like most dog owners, your animal is a family member. You can’t bear the thought of losing your best friend.
Dog bites happen every day in New Jersey and across the country, with one study finding there are approximately 316,000 dog bites that lead to emergency room visits annually in the United States. That’s nearly 900 trips to the emergency room due to dog bites per day! While many of these injuries are superficial, some of the damages caused by dog attacks are fatal.
Many dogs make great pets, but some are considered too dangerous to interact with the public. The courts recognize injury cases related to dog bites to be a civil matter between the dog owner and the victim. However, New Jersey does have a statute that allows municipal courts to order vicious dogs to be put down.
Enacted in 1989, the statute allows a municipality to seek to have a dog declared vicious under very limited circumstances. The law allows the dog owner a chance at a hearing to plead the case for his or her pet and guarantees the right of an appeal. With the help of an experienced municipal court attorney, you may be able to stop the death mandate.
Procedure for Having a Dog Declared Vicious Under New Jersey Law
To obtain an order declaring that a dog is vicious and must be put down, a municipality must prove to the municipal court that one of two circumstances exists:
(1) that the dog had either killed or caused “serious bodily injury” to a person; or
(2) that the dog has been engaged in dog fighting activities.
The municipality must prove to the municipal court the existence of one of these two factors by clear and convincing evidence. What’s more, the statute forbids the court from declaring a dog vicious if it determines the dog was provoked before it killed or caused serious bodily injury to a person. Moreover, while this seems like a defense the dog owner would have to raise, the statute requires the municipality to prove the dog wasn’t provoked.
If the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the dog is vicious, the municipality is ordered to put down the dog quickly and humanely. However, the dog owner does have the right to appeal the decision. The dog cannot be put down while an appeal is pending.
If you are summoned to municipal court because your dog bit someone, you need experienced legal counsel. Your dog may be declared vicious, and the judge may order it put down. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone to see how we can help you.