Many Michigan residents have pets for whom they care. In fact, for many, their pets are like their children. Though our beloved animals can bring us joy and comfort, they can also bring criminal charges and the potential for serious penalties, including prison. Therefore, it is important for Michigan residents to know how the law can affect them, their pets and what they can do to better protect themselves from allegations of criminal wrongdoing.
Under Michigan law, an individual can be charged with a criminal offense if his or her animal causes harm to another. The law is applicable to all “dangerous animals,” which can be any animal, including a dog, but not livestock.
If an attack occurs and an individual is killed as a result, then the animal’s owner may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. If an animal attack causes serious injuries to another, then the animal’s owner may be charged with another felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and at least $2,000 in fines. Even minor injuries can lead to criminal charges and the imposition of significant penalties.
There are, however, situations where an animal attack leaves an individual injured, but legal action is not justified. For example, if the animal was tormented or provoked prior to the incident in question, or if the alleged victim was trespassing at the time the harm was suffered, then criminal prosecution will likely be deemed unwarranted.
Armed with this information, pet owners should be careful about who they allow around their pets, as well as monitor their pets’ demeanor around others. In the event that an incident occurs and allegations start flying, accused individuals should consider speaking with their criminal defense attorney to learn how they can best protect themselves.
Source: Legislature.Mi.gov, “Dangerous Animals Act,” accessed on March 11, 2016