Felony dog attack laws ::

A compilation of felony dog attack statutes by state. Some state laws do not require a previous classification of the dog to be eligible for a felony offense. Other states do have this requirement.

Classification not required

States with felony dog attack statutes that do not require the dog to be previously classified (such as a legally declared "vicious" or "dangerous") still must show the owner had knowledge of the dog's propensities. Most laws also require showing a "reckless" or "criminally negligent" intent of an owner in failing to properly confine or control the dog. In some states, prosecutions are not restricted to off-property attacks, but felony charges most often involve off-property attacks.

Alabama

Alabama statute § 3-6A-5 was enacted in 2018 after 24-year old Emily Mae Colvin was mauled to death by her neighbor's five loose pit bulls. The criteria of the statute requires proving the owner of the dog "had prior knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the dog" and "demonstrated a reckless disregard of the propensities" under the circumstances. The statute applies to "serious physical injury or death to a person." The 2018 Act also clarified dangerous dog procedures.

Alabama Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Alabama Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 3-6A-5. Enacted in 2018. (a) If a dog that has previously been declared by a court to be dangerous, when unjustified, attacks and causes serious physical injury or death to a person, the owner of the dog shall be guilty of a Class B felony.

(b) If a dog that has not been declared by a court to be dangerous, when unjustified, attacks and causes serious physical injury or death to a person, and the owner of the dog had prior knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the dog, yet demonstrated a reckless disregard of the propensities under the circumstances, the owner of the dog shall be guilty of a Class C felony.

Arizona

Arizona statute § 13-1208 was enacted in 2011 and was in part inspired by Fabian's Law, which for the first time penalized owners of aggressive dogs that attack domesticated animals. House Bill 2137 also increased penalties for owners of dogs that attack people. The felony statute requires proving the owner of the dog "knows or has reason to know" the dog "has a history of biting or a propensity to cause injury" without provocation and attacks and seriously injures a person.

Arizona Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Arizona Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s). § 13-1208. Assault; vicious animals; classification; exception; definition. Enacted in 2011. A. A person who intentionally or knowingly causes any dog to bite and inflict serious physical injury on a human being or otherwise cause serious physical injury to a human being is guilty of a class 3 felony, unless the person would be justified in using physical force or deadly physical force in self-defense or defense of a third person pursuant to chapter 4 of this title.

B. A person who owns a dog that the owner knows or has reason to know has a history of biting or a propensity to cause injury or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings without provocation or that has been found to be a vicious animal by a court of competent jurisdiction and that bites, inflicts physical injury on or attacks a human being while at large is guilty of a class 5 felony.

California

California penal code 399 was enacted in 1872 and modified in 2001 after the death of Diane Whipple. The statute applies to vicious dog attacks under certain circumstances. The statute requires proving the owner had knowledge of the dog's propensities and "willfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care" and the dog kills or seriously injures a person. A legal analysis of Penal Code 399 and the Diane Whipple case are located at DogBiteLaw.com.

California Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
California Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) Penal Code 399. Enacted in 1872 and modified in 2001. (a) If any person owning or having custody or control of a mischievous animal, knowing its propensities, willfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care, and the animal, while so at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, kills any human being who has taken all the precautions that the circumstances permitted, or which a reasonable person would ordinarily take in the same situation, is guilty of a felony.

(b) If any person owning or having custody or control of a mischievous animal, knowing its propensities, willfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care, and the animal, while so at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, causes serious bodily injury to any human being who has taken all the precautions that the circumstances permitted, or which a reasonable person would ordinarily take in the same situation, is guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony.

Colorado

Colorado statute § 18-9-204.5 was enacted in 1991. The owner of a dangerous dog that inflicts a second offense of serious bodily injury to a person is a class 6 felony. The owner of a dangerous dog that causes the death of a person is a class 5 felony. After three roaming pit bulls killed Jennifer Brooke in 2003, the owner pleaded guilty to owning a dangerous dog causing death. Prosecutors dismissed a felony count of criminally negligent homicide in exchange for the plea.1

Colorado Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Colorado Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 18-9-204.5. Unlawful ownership of dangerous dog. Enacted in 1991. (2)(b) "Dangerous dog" means any dog that: (I) Inflicts bodily or serious bodily injury upon or causes the death of a person or domestic animal;  or (II) Demonstrates tendencies that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the dog may inflict bodily or serious bodily injury upon or cause the death of any person or domestic animal;  or (III) Engages in or is trained for animal fighting as described and prohibited in section 18-9-204.

(3)(a) A person commits ownership of a dangerous dog if such person owns, possesses, harbors, keeps, has a financial or property interest in, or has custody or control over a dangerous dog.

(3)(c) Any owner who violates paragraph (a) of this subsection (3) whose dog inflicts serious bodily injury to a person commits a class 1 misdemeanor. Any owner involved in a second or subsequent violation under this paragraph (c) commits a class 6 felony.

(3)(d) Any owner who violates paragraph (a) of this subsection (3) whose dog causes the death of a person commits a class 5 felony.

Indiana

Indiana statute § 15-20-1-4 was enacted in 1993 after the victim of a violent pit bull attack became determined to hold owners of vicious dogs accountable. Caress Garten shares her story of survival and how she changed state law in her book. The statute only applies if the attack occurs off-property and the victim dies. A Level 6 felony applies when the owner "recklessly violates this section" and a Level 5 felony when the owner "intentionally or knowingly violates this section."

Indiana Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Indiana Death inflicted by dog(s) § 15-20-1-4. Dog bite liability; criminal offense. Enacted in 1993. Sec. 4. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), the owner of a dog commits a Class C misdemeanor if: (1) the owner recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally fails to take reasonable steps to restrain the dog; (2) the dog enters property other than the property of the dog's owner; and (3) as the result of the owner's failure to restrain the dog, the dog bites or attacks another person without provocation, resulting in bodily injury to the other person. (b) The offense under subsection (a) is...

(3) a Level 6 felony if the owner recklessly violates this section and the violation results in the death of a person; and (4) a Level 5 felony if the owner intentionally or knowingly violates this section and the violation results in the death of a person.

Louisiana

Louisiana statute § 14:32 was enacted in 2009 after two people were killed by dogs. The "Luna McDaniel and Michael 'Blaise' Landry Act," sponsored by Rep. Rickey Hardy, passed both chambers unanimously before being signed into law. The felony statute penalizes owners who are "reckless and criminally negligent in confining or restraining the dog" and the dog kills a person. House Bill 155 also criminalized "negligent injuring" by unconfined dogs as a misdemeanor.

Louisiana Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Louisiana Death inflicted by dog(s) § 14:32. Negligent homicide. Enacted in 2009. A. Negligent homicide is either of the following: (1) The killing of a human being by criminal negligence. (2) The killing of a human being by a dog or other animal when the owner is reckless and criminally negligent in confining or restraining the dog or other animal...

C.(1) Except as provided for in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection, whoever commits the crime of negligent homicide shall be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than five years, fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.

(2)(a) If the victim killed was under the age of ten years, the offender shall be imprisoned at hard labor, without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, for not less than two nor more than five years.

Michigan

Michigan statute § 287.323 was enacted in 1988. Criteria of the statute requires that the dog "meets the definition of a dangerous animal" in Section 1(a) and the dog inflicts death or serious injury. A 2013 Michigan Court of Appeals decision determined that the statute is not a strict liability offense. The statute requires proof that the owner "knew that his or her animal was a dangerous animal within the meaning of the dangerous animal statute prior to the incident at issue."

Michigan Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Michigan Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 287.323. Owner guilty of involuntary manslaughter, felony, or misdemeanor; penalty; costs. Enacted in 1988.

(1) The owner of an animal that meets the definition of a dangerous animal in section 1(a) that causes the death of a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, punishable under section 321 of the Michigan penal code, Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931, being section 750.321 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.

(2) If an animal that meets the definition of a dangerous animal in section 1(a) attacks a person and causes serious injury other than death, the owner of the animal is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years, a fine of not less than $2,000.00, or community service work for not less than 500 hours, or any combination of these penalties.

Minnesota

Minnesota statute § 609.205 was modified in 1985. The modification (HF 264) came after 7-year old Jeremiah Rogholt was killed by a malamute that had escaped its enclosure. The owner of the dog could only be charged with misdemeanors.2 The statute requires proving the owner had knowledge of the dog's "vicious propensities" or the dog had "caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past" and the owner "negligently or intentionally" failed to keep it properly confined.

Minnesota Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Minnesota Death inflicted by dog(s) § 609.205. Manslaughter in the second degree. Modified in 1985. A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:

(4) by negligently or intentionally permitting any animal, known by the person to have vicious propensities or to have caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past, to run uncontrolled off the owner's premises, or negligently failing to keep it properly confined;

New Mexico

New Mexico statute § 77-1A-6 was enacted in 2005 after a young child was attacked by a pit bull.3 SB 432 defined "dangerous" and "potentially dangerous" dogs and the requirements for owning such dogs. The statue also set forth felony penalties when "an owner knew of the propensity of a dog to inflict serious injury" or "the dog had previously been found by a court to be a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog" and the dog inflicts serious injuries on a domestic animal or human.

New Mexico Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
New Mexico Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) on humans and dogs 77-1A-6. Prohibited acts; penalties. Enacted in 2005. C. An owner of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog that causes serious injury or death to a domestic animal, without provocation, is guilty of a fourth degree felony and shall be sentenced in accordance with the provisions of Section 31-18-15 NMSA 1978.

D. An owner of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog that causes serious injury to a human being, without provocation, is guilty of a third degree felony and shall be sentenced in accordance with the provisions of Section 31-18-15 NMSA 1978.

E. An owner of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog that causes the death of a human being, without provocation, is guilty of a third degree felony resulting in the death of a human being and shall be sentenced in accordance with the provisions of Section 31-18-15 NMSA 1978.

F. Prosecution pursuant to this section requires a showing that: (1) an owner knew of the propensity of a dog to inflict serious injury; or (2) the dog had previously been found by a court to be a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has two felony statutes pertaining to deaths inflicted by dogs. Statute § 21-717, which was enacted in 1910, is what our nonprofit sees when authorities bring felony charges after a fatal dog mauling in this state. Similar to California, the statute requires proving the owner of a "mischievous animal" had knowledge of the dog's propensities and "willfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care" and the dog, while unconfined, kills a human being.

Oklahoma Felony Dog Attack Statutes
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Oklahoma Death inflicted by dog(s) § 21-717. Owner of mischievous animal which kills person. Enacted in 1910. § 21-717. Owner of mischievous animal which kills person. If the owner of a mischievous animal, knowing its propensities, wilfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care, and such animal, while so at large or not confined, kills any human being who has taken all the precautions which the circumstances permitted, to avoid such animal, the owner is deemed guilty of manslaughter in the second degree.

§ 21-722. Manslaughter in the second degree a felony - Penalty. Any person guilty of manslaughter in the second degree shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary not more than four (4) years and not less than two (2) years, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one (1) year, or by a fine not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or both fine and imprisonment.

Oklahoma Death inflicted by dog(s) § 4-42.4. Owners of dangerous dogs, bite or attacks on public property - Penalty. Enacted in 2006. § 4-44: "Dangerous dog" means any dog that: a.) has inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property, b.) has been previously found to be potentially dangerous, the owner having received notice of such by the animal control authority in writing and the dog thereafter aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans, or...

§ 4-42.4 A. It is unlawful for the owner of any dog that previously has: 1.) When unprovoked inflicted bites on any person or severely injured any person either on public or private property; or 2.) When unprovoked created an imminent threat of injury or death to any person, to permit such dog to run at large or aggressively bite or attack any person while such person is lawfully upon public or private property. Upon conviction, the violator shall be guilty of a misdemeanor...

B. The owner of any dangerous dog as defined by Section 44 of Title 4 of the Oklahoma Statutes, or any dog that is described in subsection A of this section, that attacks any person causing the death of such person, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not more than five (5) years, or by the imposition of a fine not to exceed...

Tennessee

Tennessee statute § 44-8-408 was enacted in 2007, and was part of the Dianna Acklen Act, who was killed by three loose dogs in 2006. The act abolished the state's "one bite" rule and set forth penalties for owners when their dog "goes uncontrolled" on certain premises or "upon a highway, public road, street or any other place open to the public generally." It is a class E felony if the attack results in serious bodily injury to a person and a class D felony if the attack causes death.

Tennessee Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Tennessee Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 44-8-408. Dogs not allowed at large Exception Penalties. Enacted in 2007. (a) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “owner” means a person who, at the time of the offense, regularly harbors, keeps or exercises control over the dog, but does not include a person who, at the time of the offense, is temporarily harboring, keeping or exercising control over the dog.

(b) The owner of a dog commits an offense if that dog goes uncontrolled by the owner upon the premises of another without the consent of the owner of the premises or other person authorized to give consent, or goes uncontrolled by the owner upon a highway, public road, street or any other place open to the public generally.

(4) A violation of this section is a Class E felony if the dog running at large causes serious bodily injury, as defined by § 39-11-106, to another.

(5) A violation of this section is a Class D felony if the dog running at large causes the death of another.

(Note: If the above circumstance involves a dog that was trained to fight, attack or kill or had been used to fight; or the owner of the dog violating this section knew of the dangerous nature of the dog and, prior to the violation of this section, the dog had bitten one (1) or more people that resulted in serious bodily injury or death, the felony levels increase.)

Texas

Texas statute § 822.005 (Lillian's Law) was enacted in 2007 and is named after Lillian Stiles, who was attacked and killed by her neighbor's loose dogs. The statute requires proving the attack was unprovoked, occurred off the owner’s property, and resulted in serious bodily injury or death. The statute was first tested after a little boy was brutally killed by four pit bulls in 2008. One prosecutor in that case discusses the statute. An analysis of the statute is also provided on DogBiteLaw.com.

Texas Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Texas Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 822.005. Attack by dog. Enacted in 2007. (a) A person commits an offense if the person is the owner of a dog and the person: (1) with criminal negligence, as defined by Section 6.03, Penal Code, fails to secure the dog and the dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than the owner's real property or in or on the owner's motor vehicle or boat and that causes serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code, or death to the other person; or

(2) knows the dog is a dangerous dog by learning in a manner described by Section 822.042(g) that the person is the owner of a dangerous dog, and the dangerous dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than a secure enclosure in which the dog is restrained in accordance with Subchapter D and that causes serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 822.001, or death to the other person.

(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree unless the attack causes death, in which event the offense is a felony of the second degree.

Virginia

Virginia statute § 3.2-6540 was enacted in 2006 and was part of comprehensive legislation enacted after 82-year old Dorothy Sullivan was killed by her neighbor's pit bulls in 2005. Under the state's existing laws, the owner of the dogs that killed Sullivan was convicted for involuntary manslaughter. The felony dog attack statute requires proving the owner's failure to care or contain a vicious dog, was so "gross, wanton, and culpable" it caused serious bodily injury to a person.

Virginia Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Virginia Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 3.2-6540. Control of dangerous dogs; penalties. Enacted in 2006. O. Any owner or custodian of a canine or canine crossbreed or other animal is guilty of a...

3. Class 6 felony if any owner or custodian whose willful act or omission in the care, control, or containment of a canine, canine crossbreed, or other animal is so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, and is the proximate cause of such dog or other animal attacking and causing serious bodily injury to any person.

Washington

Washington statute § 16.08.100 was enacted in 1987, when pit bull attacks dominated headlines. The statute requires proving the owner of the dog "knew or should have known" that the dog was potentially dangerous prior to inflicting severe injury or death to a human. The law was used to convict the owners of the dogs in the Sue Gorman case (2007). Gorman, however, is more widely known for suing Pierce County after the violent pit bull mauling and being awarded $2.2 million.

Washington Felony Dog Attack Law
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Washington Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 16.08.100. Penalties and affirmative defenses for owners of dogs that attack. Enacted in 1987. (3) The owner of any dog that aggressively attacks and causes severe injury or death of any human, whether or not the dog has previously been declared potentially dangerous or dangerous, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a class C felony punishable in accordance with RCW 9A.20.021 ... In such a prosecution, the state has the burden of showing that the owner of the dog either knew or should have known that the dog was potentially dangerous as defined in this chapter.

Classification required

States with felony dog attack statutes that require the dog to be previously classified (legally declared "vicious" or "dangerous") or requires legal notification, such as a "first offense" that qualifies as one of these classifications and the dog attacks again, causing serious or fatal injuries to a person, are the strictest form of felony dog attack laws. Some laws even require two offenses causing "serious bodily injury" after a dog has been determined dangerous for felony charges.

State Felony Dog Attack Statutes - Classification Required
State Applies To Title and Enactment Statute
Florida Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 767.13. Attack or bite by dangerous dog; penalties. (2) If a dog that has previously been declared dangerous attacks and causes severe injury to or death of any human, the owner is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Georgia Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 4-8-29. Limitations on dog's presence off of owner's premises; penalty for violation; defense. Enacted in 2012. Learn more (d) An owner with a previous conviction for a violation of this article whose classified dog causes serious injury to a human being under circumstances constituting another violation of this article shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years, a fine of not less than $5,000.00 nor more than $10,000.00, or both. In addition, the classified dog shall be euthanized at the cost of the owner.
Illinois Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 510 ILCS 5/26) (P.A. 93-548). Enacted in 2003. (b) If the owner of a vicious dog subject to enclosure: (1) fails to maintain or keep the dog in an enclosure or fails to spay or neuter the dog within the time period prescribed; and (2) the dog inflicts serious physical injury upon any other person or causes the death of another person; and (3) the attack is unprovoked in a place where such person is peaceably conducting himself or herself and where such person may lawfully be; the owner shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony, unless the owner knowingly allowed the dog to run at large or failed to take steps to keep the dog in an enclosure then the owner shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony...

(c) If the owner of a dangerous dog knowingly fails to comply with any order regarding the dog and the dog inflicts serious physical injury on a person or a companion animal, the owner shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony. If the owner of a dangerous dog knowingly fails to comply with any order regarding the dog and the dog kills a person the owner shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony.

Nebraska Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 54-622.01. Dangerous dogs; serious bodily injury; penalty; defense. Enacted in 2009. (1) Any owner whose dangerous dog inflicts on a human being a serious bodily injury as defined in section 28-109 is guilty of a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class IV felony for a second or subsequent offense, whether or not the same dangerous dog is involved.
Nevada Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 202.500. Dangerous or vicious dogs: Unlawful acts; penalties. Enacted in 2013. See 2015 death of Kenneth Lawrence. (c) "Vicious" if: (1) Without being provoked, it killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm upon a human being; or (2) After its owner or keeper had been notified by a law enforcement agency that the dog is dangerous, the dog continued the behavior described in paragraph (a)...

4. A person who knowingly: (a) Owns or keeps a vicious dog, for more than 7 days after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious; or (b) Transfers ownership of a vicious dog after the person has actual notice that the dog is vicious, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

5. If substantial bodily harm results from an attack by a dog known to be vicious, its owner or keeper is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130. In lieu of, or in addition to, a penalty provided in this subsection, the judge may order the vicious dog to be humanely destroyed.

Ohio Death inflicted by dog(s) § 955.99. Chapter 955 Dogs. Penalty. (H)(1) Whoever commits a violation of division (C) of section 955.22 of the Revised Code that involves a vicious dog is guilty of one of the following:

(a) A felony of the fourth degree if the dog kills a person. Additionally, the court shall order that the vicious dog be humanely destroyed by a licensed veterinarian, the county dog warden, or the county humane society at the owner's expense.

South Carolina Death and serious injuries inflicted by dog(s) § 47-3-760. Penalties; registration of dangerous animals. (B) A person who is the owner of a dangerous animal which attacks and injures a human being in violation of Section 47-3-710(A)(2)(a) or a person who violates Section 47-3-740: (1) for a first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than three years;

(2) for a second or subsequent offense, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than ten thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years.

Citations
  1. McCuen Pleads Guilty To Owning Dog That Killed Jennifer Brooke, Denver Channel, September 24, 2004.
  2. Newspaper Archives: UPI (USA) - September 26, 1984; St. Cloud Times - September 27, 1984; Daily Breeze - September 28, 1984; Star Tribune - November 7, 1984; Argus-Leader - February 10, 1985.
  3. Because of Emma-Leigh's tremendous determination to persevere, she was selected as a Children's Miracle Network New Mexico champion and 2006 ambassador for UNM Children's Hospital. As an ambassador and Children's Miracle champion, she met President George W. Bush among other things. (Miracle Network child Emma-Leigh meets the president, by Clara Garcia, News-Bulletin, March 29, 2006.)