In Michigan, a “dog at large” ticket is issued when a dog is found off its owner’s property and not under the control of the owner or a responsible person. Local ordinances may vary, but generally, this means the dog is running freely in public areas or on someone else’s private property without permission. As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to make sure your dog is secured at all times. Here’s a general overview of what to expect and how to handle a dog at large ticket in Michigan:

 

  1. Understanding the Charge
  • Definition: “At large” typically means a dog is off its owner’s premises and not on a leash or under the direct control of a person.
  • Local Ordinances: The exact definition and rules can vary by municipality, so check your local animal control ordinances. Almost every City or Township has this type of ordinance.

 

  1. Potential Penalties
  • Fines: Fines for a first offense can range from $50 to $500, depending on the municipality.
  • Court Costs: In addition to the fine, you may be responsible for court costs.
  • Repeat Offenses: In some jurisdictions you may be charged with a misdemeanor that carries jail time.  Subsequent offenses often result in higher fines and may include additional penalties such as mandatory obedience training or community service.

 

  1. Receiving the Ticket
  • Citation: The ticket will detail the violation, including the date, time, and location where the dog was found at large.
  • Instructions: The ticket will provide instructions on how to pay the fine or contest the citation. It is important to consult an attorney to find out what kind of liability you are looking at which can range from criminal to civil liability.
  • involves appearing in court or contacting the local animal control or municipal court to schedule a hearing.

 

  1. Contesting the Ticket
  • Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence that supports your case, such as witness statements, photos, or video footage showing the dog was under control or on your property.
  • Legal Representation: Consider hiring an attorney, especially if the fines are significant or you have prior offenses.

 

  1. Preventing Future Violations
  • Leash Laws: Always keep your dog on a leash when off your property, unless in a designated off-leash area.
  • Secure Fencing: Ensure your yard is securely fenced and gates are closed and latched to prevent your dog from escaping.
  • Training: Invest in obedience training to ensure your dog responds to commands and stays close to you when outside.

 

  1. Resources
  • Local Animal Control: Contact your local animal control office for specific information about the laws in your area.
  • Municipal Court: Reach out to the municipal court listed on your ticket for details on paying fines or contesting the citation.

 

Michigan Dog Bite Law Overview

  1. Statutory Liability:
  • Strict Liability: Michigan is a “strict liability” state regarding dog bites. This means that the dog owner is liable for any injuries caused by their dog biting someone, regardless of whether the dog had previously shown any aggressive behavior or whether the owner was aware of such behavior.
  • Statute: The primary statute is MCL 287.351, (see https://www.legislature.mi.gov/Laws/MCL?objectName=MCL-287-351) which states that if a dog bites a person who is on public property or lawfully on private property (including the dog owner’s property), the dog owner is liable for damages.

 

  1. Conditions for Liability:
  • No Provocation: The victim must not have provoked the dog. Provocation can be a defense for the dog owner.
  • Lawful Presence: The victim must be lawfully on the property. This includes invited guests, mail carriers, and others who have a legitimate reason to be on the property.

 

  1. Exceptions to Liability:
  • Provocation: If the dog was provoked by the victim, the owner may not be held liable.
  • Unlawful Presence: If the victim was trespassing or unlawfully on the property, the owner may not be held liable.

 

  1. Damages:
  • Compensatory Damages: These can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.
  • Punitive Damages: In certain cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the owner’s conduct was particularly egregious.

 

  1. Legal Actions:
  • Filing a Claim: Victims can file a personal injury claim against the dog owner. This is why your liability as a dog owner can be both criminal and civil.
  • Time Limits: The statute of limitations for filing a dog bite claim in Michigan is generally three years from the date of the bite.

Overall, it is vital to retain legal counsel that is specialized in defending these types of cases. Protecting your rights as well as those of your dogs can make all the financial difference.