If you personally know the owner of the dog that bit you – if, for example, the dog belonged to a friend, a relative, or a neighbor – then you may fear that pursuing a claim will bring your loved one pain. You know that some dogs are put down for aggressive behavior, and you may not want the dog that bit you euthanized. While it’s admirable that you don’t want your friend to lose his or her beloved pet, you still need to report the bite, which could be a threat to public safety, and you still need medical care (and the money to afford it).

The Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act

New Jersey has a law known as the Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act. This law outlines the criteria required for a municipality to determine if a dog is vicious or potentially dangerous.

  • Vicious dogs are defined as dogs that have killed a human or caused “serious bodily injury” – meaning an injury that poses a substantial risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement or prolonged loss or impairment of an organ or body part. If the dog was provoked (not necessarily by you) when it attacked, it cannot be declared vicious.

When a municipality determines that a dog is vicious, then it can be euthanized – however, owners still have the opportunity to appeal the decision and present their case for saving the dog.

  • Potentially dangerous dogs are a step below vicious – a significant step. While vicious dogs are euthanized, potentially dangerous dogs don’t have to be. Their owners are simply required to comply with additional regulations for the sake of public safety, including restraining the dog inside a fence, purchasing additional insurance coverage, and microchipping the dog for identification purposes.

A dog is declared potentially dangerous if the municipal court finds that it caused serious injury to a human (or another domestic animal) during an unprovoked attack and there is convincing evidence that the dog poses a threat of killing or seriously injuring another person or animal. Again, if the dog was provoked by someone, it cannot be declared potentially dangerous.

2019 Update: Assemblyman Gordon Johnson has a bill that hopes to further clarify what makes an animal vicious. This bill did not pass yet.

What Will Happen to the Dog that Bit You?

Often, dogs that bite and cause a serious injury are impounded after an attack while the municipal court investigates the event. If there is any doubt as to the dog’s history of rabies vaccination, it may be quarantined and monitored to determine if it has the virus. Dogs may also be impounded while owners are appealing a determination that a dog is vicious.

If the municipal court determines that the dog does need to be put down, it’s for purposes of public safety, not because of anything that you did – and hopefully, the situation can be resolved without euthanasia in a way that prevents anyone else from being hurt like you were.  If you suffered serious dog bite injuries, then it’s essential that you not only get medical care, but that you get the compensation you deserve for your damages. Don’t let fear of what will happen to the dog that hurt you stand in the way of taking care of yourself. We can help you get your claim started and understand all of your options. Call our dog bite lawyers today at (856) 778-5500 for your free consultation.