Maine Dog Bite Attack Leads to Stronger State Law

Dog bites in Maine can have serious consequences for victims, resulting in lifelong injuries, scarring and emotional trauma. Last summer, effective Aug. 1, 2018, Maine’s law pertaining to dangerous dogs changed, making it easier to hold negligent dog owners accountable. As our Portland dog bite injury attorneys can explain, L.D. 858, codified in MRSA s. 3907, sub s.12-D, raised the fine and expanded penalties imposed for owning a nuisance or dangerous dog and also for failing to follow a court order related to that dog.

The law defines a “dangerous dog” as a canine (wolf hybrid or dog) that either kills or inflicts serious bodily injury on a person, pet or other domesticated animal (assuming the subject of the attack wasn’t trespassing on the dog’s or its owner/owner’s property). But a dog doesn’t need to bite in order for this designation to apply. A dog can be found dangerous if it causes a “reasonable and prudent person,” who is not on the dog/owner’s property and isn’t acting in any way aggressive, to fear imminent serious bodily injury of themselves or someone else. Excluded in this are law enforcement K-9s, dogs protecting their owners/property or dogs that seriously injure or kill a person committing a crime against an individual or property owned by the dog’s keeper/owner.

Nuisance dogs, meanwhile, are defined as a dog/wolf hybrid that causes bodily injury (other than serious bodily injury) to an individual or domesticated animal not trespassing on the dog or the owner/keeper. Just like Maine’s new dangerous dog designation, a dog that puts a person in fear of bodily injury can be given a nuisance designation.

When a dog is deemed by a court to be a nuisance or dangerous, the owner of a dangerous dog is required to pay a $100 fee to have the dog licensed as such. A nuisance dog owner is required to purchase a $30 license. These licenses are required to be updated annually, with fees due on or after January 31st. A $70 late fee is applicable to any who don’t meet the deadline.

The state now keeps the dog license records in a database in coordination with electronic dog licenses. Cities are required to report all new dangerous/nuisance dog designations recorded in the prior year.

If a dangerous or nuisance dog commits a civil violation, owners will receive a fine of at least $250, up to $5,000 – plus costs – none of which may be suspended. Courts may decide to euthanize a dog that has killed, maimed or inflicted serious bodily injury on a person or has a history of prior assault OR who presents a clear threat to public safety. Dogs can also be ordered confined in a locked, secure enclosure (at least 6 feet high), and substantial enough to keep out young children. The court may also order the dog muzzled when taken beyond the owner’s property. Courts may also order owners who choose to keep the dog to obtain a $100,000 liability insurance policy on the dog for the remainder of its life. If the dog ever hurts someone again, Portland dog bite injury lawyers note damages could be paid out via that policy. (Most dog bite injury claims involve claims against the home owner insurance policy.)

Another state bill, championed by a Maine woman who was viciously attacked by two dogs last summer, seeks to make it a Class C felony for a dog owner to leave the scene of an injurious dog bite. It would work much the same way we expect drivers to remain on scene after a crash (especially one that has caused an injury). In her case, the CentralMaine.com reported, she was attacked in an arcade parking lot. The horrifying attack had her screaming in pain – and pleading with the owner to check whether one of the dogs had her ear (which she feared was gone) and if the dogs had their rabies shot. The owner took his dogs and sped off. She received two dozen stitches, a dozen staples and a series of rabies shots. The owner got a $250 civil fine per dog.

If you are the victim of a Portland dog bite injury in Maine, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Gardiner dog attack prompts proposal to change state law, Oct. 19, 2018, Staff Writer, CentralMaine.com

More Blog Entries:

Rabid Animal Attacks Put Focus on Dog Bite Injuries in Maine, June 28, 2018, Portland Dog Bite Attorney Blog