Minnesota  |  Criminal Law

Legal Question

Asked on: 5/17/13, 2:21 pm

My dog bit our neighbor a few months ago. He got startled by the swinging of a shovel and reacted. He has never done this before, knows the neighbor, has had multiple training classes, and we take precautions to prevent this. He is a really good dog and never shown any aggression. It happened and we are dealing with it. We are on good terms with the neighbor and there is no expectation of being sued.

The police have been attempting to deem our dog potentially dangerous, but have been mishandling the investigation/process. My interpretation of the definition of a potentially dangerous dog requires more than one bite "Inflicts Bites". I dont believe our dog meets the definition in Section A.

POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS DOG: Any dog that:

A. When unprovoked, inflicts bites on a human or domestic animal on public or private property;

B. When unprovoked, chases or approaches a person, including a person on a bicycle, upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public or private property, other than the dog owner's property, in an apparent attitude of attack; or

C. Has a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, causing injury or otherwise threatening the safety of humans or domestic animals.

Regarding the mishandling of the process by police:

Per the city code (which is very close to the state), the police are required to notify me by mail of their intent to deem the dog potentially dangerous. It must also include directions to appeal.

Both of these items were skipped. They deemed the dog potentially dangerous with no notice. They called me (more than 3 months after the bite) to ask if he had completed the requisite training course, micro-chipping, etc. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I went down to the station. They had deemed him potentially dangerous and were trying to require me to complete the required steps for a potentially dangerous dog. I contested that they hadnt followed the appropriate steps to deem him potentially dangerous. They acknowledged they hadn't notified me and were going to talk to the city attorney and i should expect a letter of notification shortly. Over a month passed and I hadnt heard anything and figured it was over. I ended up receiving the notification, but again it was missing the option and directions to appeal (and mis-dated to say the incident occurred 4 months after it did).

When I was talking to the supervising officer in the station, he also stated that section B) of the definition of a potentially dangerous dog that "the dog only needs to "When unprovoked, chases or approaches a person" Period. The rest of the sentence doesn't matter. If a dog approaches someone unprovoked we can deem it potentially dangerous". I tried to contest that the correct reading of section B is that it must do so in an in an apparent attitude of attack to which I was dismissed and told that in his years of experience he was right and i just wanted to argue. he then made the statement that because of the dogs breed it already made him potentially dangerous in many people's eyes (he insinuated that was his believe as well). He also indicated they always deem a dog potentially dangerous on the first bite no matter the circumstances. Not wanting to entice an officer in the station I left it at that.

After receiving the notification I emailed the Chief and Mayor with my concerns over the handling and lack of following appropriate protocols and controls and asking for clarification of what was required to deem a dog potentially dangerous. I talked with the Chief who acknowledged their mishandling and notifications, but also is sticking to their interpretation of the code. I would like an unbiased evaluation of what is required to deem a dog potentially dangerous. If I am incorrect and one bite is all that is required by definition, I am fine with conceding but with the mishandling and, in my opinion, misinterpretations that have occurred; I feel they are biased.

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