Yes, animal control has the legal right to euthanize dogs in their custody. But they do not have the right to kill your pet without probable cause.
They can’t just take your pet and kill it for no reason, especially if you prove that your pet is not a dangerous dog. However, proving your dog doesn’t pose a danger to humans can sometimes be tricky after a dog bite incident.
The best approach as a dog owner is to be proactive and keep your pet out of animal control’s custody by following all local laws. This keeps you and your pet safe.
Yes. Animal control will likely take your dog into custody on a “bite hold.” In some cases, you might be able to stop this if you are onsite during the animal attack (like at a dog park), or the people involved do not want to press charges (if the bite was minor).
If the incident happens in your home, you can choose not to call the police or animal control. However, you can’t stop someone else from contacting them or stop the call if a dog bite occurs in public or someone else’s home.
A “minor bite” to you might be a distressing event for someone else; they may want the animal taken in and assessed for their own safety.
Generally, animal control will keep and observe the dog for signs of rabies or a behavioral assessment. Keeping your dog’s shots up to date is essential. If you can’t prove your dog has a current rabies vaccination, it can be standard procedure to euthanize the dog and test its body.
Police officers or animal control employees can also impound a dog for:
Typically someone will see a loose or dangerous animal and call the police or animal control. Or, police or an ambulance responding to a dog bite may call animal control.
An animal-handling team will head to the scene and capture the dog through caging, trapping, tranquilizing, or leashing techniques.
If human life is in immediate danger, the police or animal control teams can kill a dog on the spot or tranquilize it. Unfortunately, it is most common to use a gun in emergency situations like this.
The dog will be taken into custody and kept alone until the owners are contacted. Most states hold a pet for 10 days before euthanizing it.
You are liable, or legally responsible, for your dog. Your pet is seen as property in most states, so you have the right to due process (such as a fair hearing to try to get your dog back), protection from unreasonable search and seizure of your pet (or any other property), timely notification if your dog is found by the city or was involved in a violent incident.
Animal control will contact you based on your dog’s license, tags, or microchip. If your dog doesn’t have any type of identification, then animal control may not contact you, and they may euthanize your dog.
It is not lawful to hold a dog for nine days and contact an owner on the last day. Animal control must contact you as soon as possible to have time for your hearing.
You need to attend a hearing and present your case to get a dog back after a bite or dangerous incident. Sometimes this is referred to as “dog court.”
You could point out the illegal actions of police or animal control if they took your pet under unlawful circumstances.
If the seizure of your pet was lawful, you will need to present evidence at the hearing to challenge the allegations. You need to prove that:
Animal control or your local system that handles animal legal concerns will listen to your case. They will point out broken laws, such as leash laws or safety and animal ordinances. It is a good idea to review these laws and come prepared to show why the accusations are not true.
If your dog has no history of being dangerous, and the dog bite or injury is not severe, they may approve of you taking the dog home.
If your dog causes severe injury or death to a human, the judge may not rule in your favor. Your dog may be euthanized at the end of the case.
The hearing is your one chance to speak up for your pet and try to argue your case. If you are unsure how to present evidence or show the case in your pet’s favor, you should seriously consider hiring an attorney to attend the hearing with you.
It can be helpful to gather evidence from your vet, dog behavior professionals, or local experts. In some cases, an underlying medical condition or environmental issue could have contributed to the violent incident.
In some instances, animal control might conduct its own investigation or delay its decision.
These instances are theoretical examples and do not mean your situation will end the same way.
Animal control might rule in the dog’s favor if they find underlying reasons for a dog bite. An example of this is if your dog was bred for fighting or faced other forms of animal abuse. They might discover an abused dog injured its abusive owner.
Animal cruelty is a crime, so the owner will likely face punishment, and the dog will be removed from its home. If the dog has a chance for rehabilitation or a new home, the judge can give it that chance.
In some cases, they may still decide to terminate the dog, but outside circumstances and evidence create grey areas in these cases.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified pet lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.