1997 Regular Session
To: Agriculture; Judiciary B
By: Representative Ellzey
House Bill 373
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE REGULATION OF DANGEROUS DOGS; TO DEFINE CERTAIN TERMS; TO REQUIRE DANGEROUS DOGS TO BE ENCLOSED; TO PROVIDE THAT THE OWNER OF A DANGEROUS DOG SHALL BE LIABLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF THE DOG; TO REQUIRE OWNERS OF SUCH DOGS TO HAVE LIABILITY INSURANCE; TO PROVIDE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS OF THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Mississippi Dangerous Dog Act."
SECTION 2. The following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed herein unless the context or subject matter otherwise requires:
(a) "Animal control office" means an entity acting along or in concert with other local governmental units and authorized by them to enforce the animal control laws or ordinances of the municipality, county or state. In those areas not served by an animal control office, the sheriff shall carry out the duties of the animal control office under this act.
(b) "Dangerous dog" means, except as otherwise provided in Section 7(4), a dog that:
(i) Makes or attempts an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own; or
(ii) Commits unprovoked acts in a place other than a secure enclosure in which the dog was being kept and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person.
(c) "Dog" means a domesticated animal that is a member of the canine family, including a wolf hybrid.
(d) "Secure enclosure" means a fenced area or structure that is:
(ii) Capable of preventing the entry of the general public, including children;
(iii) Capable of preventing the escape or release of a dog; and
(iv) Clearly marked as containing a dangerous dog.
(e) "Immediate control" means that a dangerous dog is securely muzzled and restrained with a chain having a minimum tensile strength of three hundred (300) pounds and not exceeding three (3) feet in length and is under the direct control and supervision of the owner or keeper of the dog.
(f) "Owner" means a person who owns or has custody or control of a dangerous dog.
SECTION 3. (1) Within thirty (30) days after a person learns that he is the owner of a dangerous dog, the person shall:
(a) Register the dangerous dog with the animal control office for the area in which the dog is kept;
(b) Restrain the dangerous dog at all times on a leash in the immediate control of a person or in a secure enclosure; and
(c) Obtain liability insurance coverage or show financial responsibility in an amount of at least One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000.00) to cover damages which may result from an attack by the dangerous dog that causes bodily injury to a person.
(2) For purposes of this section, a person learns that he is the owner of a dangerous dog when:
(a) He knows of an attack described in Section 2(b)(i); or
(b) He is informed by the animal control office that the dog is a dangerous dog.
(3) If a person reports an attack described in Section 2(b)(i), the animal control office may investigate the incident. If, after receiving the sworn statements of any witnesses, the animal control office determines the dog is a dangerous dog, it shall notify the owner of that fact.
(4) Within thirty (30) days after the date the owner of a dog is notified that the dog is a dangerous dog, he may appeal the determination of the animal control office to a justice or municipal court of competent jurisdiction. An owner may appeal the decision of the justice or municipal court in the same manner as appeal for other civil cases.
SECTION 4. (1) An animal control office for the area in which the dog is kept shall register annually any dangerous dog if the owner:
(a) Presents proof of:
(i) Liability insurance or financial responsibility, as required by Section 3(1)(c); and
(ii) A current rabies vaccination of the dangerous dog.
(b) Makes the secure enclosure in which the dangerous dog will be kept open for inspection before registration by the animal control office.
(2) The animal control office shall provide to the owner registering a dangerous dog a registration tag. The owner must place the tag on the dog's collar.
(3) If an owner of a registered dangerous dog sells the dog or moves the dog to a new address, the owner shall notify, within fourteen (14) days after such sale or move, the animal control office for the area in which the dog is located. On presentation by the current owner of the dangerous dog's prior registration tag, the animal control office shall issue a new registration tag to be placed on the dangerous dog's collar.
(4) An owner of a registered dangerous dog shall notify the office in which the dangerous dog was registered of any attacks the dog makes on people.
SECTION 5. (1) A person commits an offense if he is the owner of a dangerous dog and the dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person outside the dog's enclosure and causes bodily injury to the other person.
(2) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor, unless the attack causes serious bodily injury or death, in which event the offense is a felony. Conviction of a misdemeanor violation of this section is punishable in accordance with Section 99-19-31. Conviction of a felony violation is punishable by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) nor more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) or by imprisonment for not less than six (6) months nor more than two (2) years, or by both.
(3) If a person is convicted of an offense under this section, the court may order the dangerous dog destroyed by the animal control office.
(4) In addition to criminal prosecution pursuant to this section, a person who commits an offense under this section is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00). An attorney representing a county or a municipality wherein the offense occurred may file suit in a court of competent jurisdiction to assess and collect the penalty. Penalties collected under this subsection shall be retained by the county or municipality.
SECTION 6. (1) A person who owns or has custody or control of a dangerous dog commits an offense if the person fails to comply with the provisions of Section 3.
(2) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by a fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) nor more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or up to six (6) months in jail, or both.
SECTION 7. (1) It is a defense to prosecution under this act that the person being prosecuted is a veterinarian, a law enforcement officer, a person employed by a recognized animal shelter or a person employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state to deal with stray animals and has temporary ownership, custody or control of the dog in connection with that position.
(2) It is a defense to prosecution under this act that the person being prosecuted is an employee of the Mississippi Department of Narcotics, or a law enforcement agency, that trains or uses dogs for law enforcement or corrections purposes.
(3) It is a defense to prosecution under this act that the person being prosecuted is a dog trainer or an employee of a guard dog company.
(4) No dog may be declared dangerous if an injury or damage is sustained by a person, who, at the time of sustaining such injury or damage is committing a willful trespass or other tort upon premises occupied by the owner or keeper of the dog or is teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or is committing or attempting to commit a crime.
(5) No dog may be declared dangerous if an injury or damage is sustained by a domestic animal while the animal is teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog. No dog may be declared dangerous if the dog was protecting or defending a human being within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault.
SECTION 8. A county or municipality may place additional requirements or restrictions on dangerous dogs if the requirements or restrictions:
(a) Are not specific to one (1) breed or several breeds of dogs; and
(b) Are more stringent than restrictions provided by this act.
SECTION 9. The provisions of this act shall not be construed to diminish or abrogate any civil or criminal remedies or sanctions allowed under the laws of this state as such laws are constituted on July 1, 1997.
SECTION 10. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.