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Dangerous Dog Hearing: Understanding the Legal Proceedings & Defending Your Dog

Updated: Sep 14, 2023


When a dog is involved in an incident causing harm or injury to a person or another animal, it may lead to a dangerous dog hearing. These hearings are essential in determining whether a dog is a nuisance or a dangerous dog and play a crucial role in defining the legal obligations and consequences for the dog owner. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of dangerous dog hearings, including the liability statute, treble damages statute, and the procedures involved. Additionally, we will explore the importance of seeking proper legal representation and understanding the defenses available when defending your beloved pet.

Liability Statute: Holding Dog Owners Responsible

Under the liability statute, dog owners or keepers can be held responsible for damages if their dog injures a person, with certain exceptions. It is important to note that if the victim was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog at the time of the incident, the owner's liability may be diminished. However, this presumption does not apply when the victim is under seven years old, where the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. Moreover, if the dog is owned by a minor, the parent or guardian assumes liability for damages.

Treble Damages Statute: Amplifying the Consequences

In Massachusetts, local authorities have the power to issue orders regarding the control of specific dogs. If a dog is ordered to be restrained by a local authority and subsequently causes harm to a person, the dog owner or keeper may be held liable for treble damages. This means that the amount of damages sustained can be tripled as a consequence of non-compliance with the restraining order. It is crucial for dog owners to understand the implications of such orders and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of others.

Understanding Dangerous Dog Hearings

A dangerous dog hearing is a legal process that determines whether a dog should be classified as a nuisance dog or a dangerous dog. This hearing is initiated when a person files a complaint with the hearing authority, which then proceeds to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the incident. The hearing authority takes into account various factors, including witness testimonies, evidence, and relevant documentation, to make an informed decision. Let's explore the possible outcomes and measures that can be imposed during a dangerous dog hearing.

Possible Outcomes and Imposed Measures

Humane Restraint

If a dog is deemed dangerous, the hearing authority may order that the dog be humanely restrained. This measure aims to prevent the dog from causing harm or injury to others.

Confinement to the Owner's Premises

In certain cases, the hearing authority may decide that the dog should be confined solely to the owner's premises. This restriction helps ensure that the dog's interactions are limited to its immediate surroundings.

Muzzling and Tethering

When a dangerous dog is taken off the owner's premises, it may be required to wear a muzzle and be restrained with a tethering device. The muzzle should have a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds and not exceed three feet in length.

Liability Insurance

The hearing authority may mandate that the owner maintains liability insurance of at least $100,000. This insurance coverage helps protect potential victims and provides financial support in case of any incidents involving the dog.


In severe cases where the dog poses a significant threat to public safety or has a history of severe aggression, the hearing authority may order euthanization. This decision is made with careful consideration of all relevant factors.

Defending Dangerous and Nuisance Dogs

It is important to note that certain behaviors or circumstances should not be the sole basis for classifying a dog as dangerous:

Growling or Barking

Dogs communicating through growling or barking should not be automatically considered dangerous. These vocalizations are often natural responses to various stimuli and do not necessarily indicate aggressive behavior.


Classifying a dog as dangerous based solely on its breed is unfair and inaccurate. It is essential to evaluate a dog's behavior and actions rather than making assumptions based on its breed or appearance.

Reacting to Provocation

If a dog's reaction to a person or another animal is not grossly disproportionate and is a result of protecting itself or its owner's property, it should not be deemed dangerous. The dog's response should be evaluated within the context of the situation.

Provocation and Enclosure

If an injured person attacked, teased, or provoked the dog or breached the dog's enclosure without authorization, the dog's actions should be considered in light of these circumstances.

When a dog is accused of biting or causing harm, it is essential to seek professional legal representation to defend the dog's rights and ensure a fair hearing. At Boston Dog Lawyers, we have successfully defended numerous dog owners by employing a reasonable and credible strategy. Our team of investigators, trainers, behaviorists, bite experts, veterinarians, and lawyers collaborate to build a strong defense based on facts and expert opinions.

Importance of Fair Hearings and Adequate Defense

To protect the rights of dog owners, fair hearings are crucial when authorities seek to impose restrictions or take away a person's liberty or property. As dogs are still considered property under the law, being notified well in advance of a hearing and having the opportunity to present a proper defense are fundamental rights for pet owners. At Boston Dog Lawyers, we aim to ensure that the decision-making process considers accurate information, and we strive to educate decision-makers on relevant state and local laws.

Understanding Dog Behavior and Overcoming Emotional Hysteria

Dogs communicate through various non-verbal cues, including barking, growling, and body language. It is important to interpret these signals correctly to understand a dog's discomfort or stress. While victims may overstate injuries and emotional harm in court, it is crucial to rely on factual evidence and expert knowledge of dog behavior to present a strong defense. By aligning ourselves with experts in dog behavior, we can navigate the legal process and ensure that decisions are based on facts rather than emotional reactions.

Exploring Alternatives and Legal Advocacy

While some extreme cases may require euthanization, there are often alternative options available before resorting to such measures. At Boston Dog Lawyers, we believe in exploring all viable alternatives and advocating for the well-being of both dogs and the communities they reside in. By actively participating in the writing of laws that pertain to our pets, we contribute to shaping fair and informed legislation.


Dangerous dog hearings are vital legal proceedings that determine whether a dog should be classified as a nuisance or a dangerous dog. Understanding the liability statute, treble damages statute, and the procedures involved is crucial for dog owners. Seeking professional legal representation, comprehending available defenses, and presenting expert knowledge on dog behavior are essential in defending your beloved pet. By actively participating in the legal process, we can ensure fair outcomes that protect both the safety of the community and the well-being of our cherished dogs.


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