Dog Bites

Learn Your Rights and Legal Options

Michigan laws protect the victims of dog bites.

We are told that we should try to be the person our dogs think we are, and that is usually good advice; be friendly, warm, loving, helpful and protective. But what if someone else’s dog thinks we are hostile and dangerous? What if that dog attacks?

Throughout the United States, laws dealing with dog attacks fall into two categories, the first requiring the owner to have prior knowledge of the dog’s violent/vicious tendencies. This is cynically called the “one free bite rule”, because the owner will not usually be held liable, unless this has happened before; in other words, when it happens for the first time, they do not have to pay, and thus the bite is “free”.

The other category are the “strict liability” states, including Michigan, which impose liability on dog owners, for bites and attacks, even if there has never been a prior violent history.

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Learn More about Michigan Dog Bite Laws

Michigan Dog Bite Law – In Detail

Under MCLA §287.351, if a dog bites someone, without being provoked, while that dog bite victim is on public property, or is lawfully on private property (including the property of the dog owner), that dog owner shall be liable for damages, regardless of the dog’s history, or the dog owner’s knowledge of any history of prior vicious behavior. The statute goes on to define the circumstances under which a person is lawfully on the private property of the dog owner:

  1. If the dog bite victim was present on the property, under a duty imposed on him/her by the State, or by postal regulations; in English, this would include postal carriers, and State employees, but may include others, as long as US postal regulations, or Michigan law required them to be there;
  2. If the person was on the property as an “invitee”, or a “licensee”. An “invitee” is someone on the property, to do business with the property owner/occupier, while a “licensee” is a social guest. These terms are discussed in greater detail, on the Premises Liability/Slip & Fall page.
  3. If the person has gained lawful entry, but then continues their presence on the property for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act, that person would not have the benefit or protection of the Michigan Dog Bite Law. See MCLA §287.351(2).