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Is a Dog's Breed Relevant to Damages?

We have all heard folks say that certain breeds of dogs are just, by virtue of their breed, dangerous animals; e.g., pit bulls. This may be untrue, and the dog's violent tendencies may be a function of poor stewardship/management by the dog owner. I am not knowledgeable enough to offer an opinion, but there are various lists that point to various breeds as being more dangerous than others. I offer links to a couple here, without opinion as to their accuracy:

Again, I am not endorsing the accuracy of these lists, although some breeds, such as pit bulls and presa canario's presence on this list should not surprise anyone.

Dangerous Dog Breeds and the Law

Does this mean that Michigan law recognizes that some breeds are dangerous by their very nature and breed? Actually, no. In fact, in one case, Taylor v Mobley, 279 Mich App 309; 760 NW2d 234 (2008), the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's ruling that a dog's breed was irrelevant to the issue of damages, further holding that evidence of the dog's breed may well be inadmissible under MRE 403, making inadmissible, otherwise admissible evidence that "is more prejudicial than probative".

Learn more about Michigan Dog Bite Laws & Protections.

A dog owner will not be liable if it can be shown that the bite victim somehow provoked the dog. There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes provocation; it should be judged on a case by case basis, which means it should be decided by a jury, at time of trial, and not by a judge on a Motion for Dismissal (aka Motion for Summary Disposition; see Civil Court Procedure page)
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The term "common-law" merely refers to the body of law that has developed over time, from accumulating appellate court cases, dealing with specific subjects. Generally speaking, when a cases is appealed to a higher court, that higher court's ruling can have the force of law, because that higher court is interpreting what they consider to be the then current state of the law, on any particular subject. The term "common-law negligence" merely refers to the body of law that has developed over time, on the specific subject of negligence, its elements and defenses.
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Non-ownership of the dog, is a defense only to the strict liability provisions of MCLA §287.351. For example, if you are babysitting a dog, while its owner is out-of-town, and (heaven forbid) the dog attacks someone on your property, you cannot be sued under the strict liability provisions of the statute, nor can you sue the dog-sitter under the statute. However, you can sue and be sued, under a theory of common-law negligence, which is preserved in Michigan law under MCLA §287.288.
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