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Paws & Reflect by Maui Humane Society

August 25, 2011 - Mark Vieth
What is a "Dangerous Dog?"

The recent tragic dog bite incidents on Maui have prompted some questions about what it means to “deem a dog dangerous.” Our MHS officers consider each incident individually to determine whether or not that dog should be “deemed dangerous.” Rendering such a judgment permanently affects the lives of both the dog and its owner so these decisions are carefully considered. Often the shared input of all MHS officers--with over 50 years of combined experience and specialized training--is sought to help make this call. Many factors are considered, including severity of the bite, certainty that the dog in question caused the injuries, and the circumstances surrounding the bite. Facts are ascertained by witness statements, veterinary reports, and other evidence, much of which is never known by the public.

If a dog is “deemed dangerous,” several requirements are placed on its owner, such as purchasing insurance, keeping the dog restrained at all times (even at home) and muzzled when in public, posting dangerous dog signs on property, and many other stringent conditions. Penalties for violation of any one of those requirements involve hefty fines and possible jail time. Thus, many owners opt instead to settle the matter by having their dog euthanized.

Dogs may bite for a variety of reasons, some of them justified, as in the case of cruelty and abuse. In most dog bite cases, the dog is not truly “dangerous.” However, it takes just one second for an unexpected bite to occur, and your life and your dog’s life could be changed forever. Abide by the law and leash your dog at all times.

This column is sponsored by private donations. To sponsor a future MHS column, contact


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