Can a Dog Be Euthanized for Biting Someone?
In the 2011 HBO documentary One Nation Under Dog, a Haddonfield Rhodesian Ridgeback named Duke was euthanized on camera. The dog had bit off a girl’s ear in 2009 and then attacked a teenager in 2011. In New Jersey, a vicious dog with a pattern of aggressive behavior can indeed be euthanized. Dog bites are a serious public health hazard, and appropriate measures must be taken when a dog has demonstrated that it acts aggressively. To allow the dog to continue attacking is simply irresponsible.
Euthanasia is actually the most common way that both house cats and dogs die. It is generally considered to be pain-free, humane, and quick. In addition to taking steps to protect others, dog bite victims should also obtain compensation from dog owners for their injuries. Seek help from a New Jersey dog bite attorney today.
What Does New Jersey Law Say?
New Jersey has laws to protect the public from so-called “vicious dogs.” This means that if the court deems a dog is vicious, it may be euthanized. There is a wide variety of legislation about “vicious dogs” in New Jersey municipal codes (city laws) as well. Here are a few:
- “The Municipal Court shall declare the dog vicious if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the dog killed a person or caused serious bodily injury…” (Atlantic City Municipal Code)
- “DANGEROUS DOG: Any dog, which, unprovoked, chases or approaches a person or a domestic animal in a threatening manner; (B). has the propensity to attack or cause injury unprovoked or threaten humans or domestic animals; (C). possesses physical characteristics when unprovoked will inflict harm or create a reasonable apprehension of such harm in a person; (D). is owned or kept primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting or is trained for dog fighting; or (E). not licensed according to law.” (Jersey City Municipal Code)
These municipal codes echo the state law that essentially says the same thing:
- A municipal (city) court is responsible for deciding if a dog is vicious or not.
- Dogs will be deemed “vicious” if they cause unprovoked bodily injury or death to a person or seriously injure or kill another animal and continue to pose a threat to people or other animals.
New Jersey state law also specifies that a dog is not to be euthanized for any of the following reasons:
- In a dog v. another animal attack, if the other animal was the aggressor.
- The injured person was trying to get between two fighting dogs or to intervene or separate them.
- The injuries the dog may have caused were provoked (the victim was taunting the dog, for example).
- If the victim was attacked while harming the dog’s babies or the dog itself.
- If the attack was due to someone committing a crime against the dog’s owners or custodians (including trespassing).
If a Dog Bites Someone, Will It Be Put Down in New Jersey?
The likelihood of a dog in New Jersey being euthanized after just one reported attack is unlikely. For that to be mandated, the dog would have to be rabid, otherwise sick or injured, or evidence would need to surface showing the dog had a long history of aggressive behavior. Dog bites are largely unreported because people fear the dog will suffer consequences it does not deserve, like being euthanized. However, when a dog attacks, imagine how deadly it can be to stay silent and allow the dog to continue its vicious behavior on a child, toddler, or baby.
Situations in which a New Jersey dog could be euthanized for vicious behavior might include:
- Engaging in a fatal attack
- Previously reported, unprovoked attacks
- A combination of previously reported attacks and neighbor complaints of aggressive behavior
Before ordering a borderline dog to be euthanized, a judge may order any of these measures first:
- Requiring the owner to use a harness or chain when the dog is outside the home or yard instead of a traditional neck collar and nylon leash
- Requiring the owners to put “beware of the dog” signs around the property to warn neighborhood kids who might have a ball drift into the yard or come by selling cookies
- Requiring the owner to muzzle the dog at specified times
- Requiring the owner to build more suitable fencing, use a closed-top kennel, walk the dog on a treadmill (instead of around the neighborhood), or something else along those lines
There Can Be Criminal Penalties for Vicious Dog Owners
Thirty-nine states have vicious dog laws like the ones New Jersey has. These laws, like New Jersey’s, often allow euthanasia to be avoided if the owner agrees to muzzle the dog, purchase additional insurance, go to obedience school, or something along those lines. Typically, if the dog owner doesn’t follow through, criminal penalties from incarceration to fines will be assessed.
The state has very specific guidelines for owners of vicious dogs. In addition to any mandates set forth by the municipal court (muzzle use, etc.), the owner is required to notify Animal Control of a dog’s prior aggressive behavior and actively work to resolve it and keep the dog restrained. In addition to these criminal penalties, the dog owner can also be sued for wrongful death, personal injury (including pain and suffering), and a variety of other civil claims stemming from the owner’s negligence.
In other states, the criminal penalties for negligently keeping a vicious dog include:
- If your vicious dog gets loose or escapes in Michigan, the owner can be charged with a misdemeanor—no injury required. The dog owner can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the dog does kill or seriously injure someone while loose on the streets.
- In Washington, a dog does not need to be declared vicious for the owner to be charged with a felony if the dog attacks or kills someone.
- It’s a misdemeanor in Illinois to violate their vicious dog law. In fact, the dog owner could even be charged with a felony if the vicious dog is not kept in a fully-enclosed kennel and injures someone.
Sadly, some dog owners not only possess knowingly vicious dogs but will actually encourage their vicious dogs to attack. Here are some examples:
- An Indiana woman purposely released her pitbull when a relative delivering medicine arrived at her house. The owner encouraged her loose pitbull to attack the relative by shouting, “Kill!” and “Get her!” The woman was charged with aggravated battery for using her dog as a weapon.
- In Massachusetts, a man was overheard giving his dog commands in a firm tone and then releasing the dog’s leash after being confronted by a woman in his apartment building. As instructed, the dog made a beeline for the woman and attacked her. He was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. It was not necessary to know what command the owner gave the dog or whether the dog was even trained to attack.
- In Georgia, a man ordered his dog to attack a police officer who was in the process of handcuffing him. The man was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
New Jersey’s Procedure for Euthanizing Vicious Dogs
Just like there are numerous formalities for inmates on death row, the procedure for dogs on death row is similar. Here are a few of the tenets set forth by the New Jersey Administrative Code § 8:23A-1.11:
- Dogs on death row are not allowed to be in contact with other animals unless they’ve been tranquilized.
- Tranquilizers and similar subduing measures are allowed if standard restraints are not possible due to injury, size, situation, etc.
- Dogs are to be euthanized via a barbiturate injection. If there is some medical reason why this would be impractical (the dog has poor vascular functionality, for instance), other methods are available as long as the dog is first sedated.
- Neuromuscular blocking agents, electrocution, shooting (firearm), hydrogen cyanide gas, chloral hydrate, chloroform, gas chambers, hydrocyanic acid, drowning, magnesium sulfate, strychnine, exsanguination, decompression chambers, and nitrous oxide are not allowed in euthanizing vicious dogs.
- The euthanasia injection can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian who is required by law to keep thorough records of all animals euthanized, including what method and dosage given.
- The dog must be weighed before being euthanized to confirm the exact dosage amount.
- The administering vet must check the dog’s vitals to confirm that the heart has stopped beating, there is no breathing, and the eyelids are non-responsive. The remains are then disposed of.
Dogs Rescued from Illegal Dog Fighting Rings
Section 1923 of the New Jersey State Revised Statutes puts our state in a class along with 41 other states that aim to protect canine victims of illegal dogfighting from being treated cruelly after seizure. While these dogs can certainly be public health hazards, the state recently passed stronger legislation for dogfighting rescues. New Jersey is committed to rehabilitating illegal fighting dogs as much as possible. Whenever it’s feasible, the ones that simply are not capable of being rehabilitated are placed in special dog homes with handlers trained to deal with them. Of course, that isn’t always an option, and sometimes, fighting dogs still end up being euthanized.
Call the New Jersey Dog Bite Lawyer Today
Dog bite cases are our entire law practice. With over 25 years of experience, we can give you excellent, skillful service and the highest possible settlement. We have offices in Newark and Egg Harbor Township. If you or a loved one has been a dog bite victim, immediate assistance is available. Call us now at 866-259-4377 for help. If you prefer written communication, our contact form is also available, and we will respond promptly.