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Does Michigan Have Dog Ownership Restrictions By Breed?

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Not all dog breeds are treated equally in Michigan. For many people, dog breeds such as corgis, Yorkshire terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are considered gentle, harmless and absolutely non-threatening to anyone. On the other hand, dog breeds such as German shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and pit bulls are thought by many to be inherently dangerous canines. As a result, these breeds often get targeted by local laws and ordinances that place limits on their owners. Some of these limits include additional registration, secure confinement or even an outright ban on ownership.

There is no state-wide law in Michigan that affects a certain dog breed (notable exception: wolf-dog hybrid ownership is subject to legal restrictions). However, numerous counties, townships, cities and villages have active municipal ordinances that specifically targets breeds such as pit bulls with additional regulations. It should be noted that breed-specific legislation is an active topic in the Michigan Legislature. On April 12th, 2018, the Michigan Senate passed Bill No. 741 which states, in part, “[a] local unit of government shall not enact or enforce an ordinance, policy, resolution, or rule that regulates a dog based upon breed or perceived breed”. However, as of 2019, this bill has not passed the Michigan House of Representatives and has not been presented to the governor for signature, so it has no current legal effect. As a result, breed-specific statutes remain in full force and effect.

The following are breed-specific legislation found throughout the State of Michigan (current as of December 31st, 2019):

  • ALMA – Sec. 10-58. “There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a pit bull dog is a vicious dog…”. (Code 1984, § 6-43; Ord. No. 533, § 8, 2-12-1991). Owners of “vicious dogs” must apply for a vicious dog license, provide proof of liability insurance to the city clerk, provide special confinement, post a sign stating “Beware of Dog”, and provide two identification photographs of the dog to the police department.
  • BESSEMER TOWNSHIP – Ord. No. 121 – Pit Bull Terriers are banned within the township limits.
  • CARSON CITY – Ord. 19.412 – “There shall be an irrebutable presumption that any dog registered with the City as a pit bull dog… is in fact a dog subject to the [ordinance requiring control and confinement of vicious dogs]”. Owners of vicious dogs must always have them leashed when out of confinement, post “Beware of Vicious Dog” signs on property, carry $100,000.00 of insurance for bodily injury/death resulting from ownership, and provide two identification photographs of the dog to the city comptroller.
  • CENTER LINE – Sec. 10-66 – “Dangerous dog” is defined as… “(f) [a]ny dog that belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog, Pit Bull Terrier, either an American Straffordshire Terrier, A Straffordshire Bull Terrier or an American Pit Bull Terrier, or of any dog of a mixed or crossbreed with any of such breeds.” Owners are restricted to owning only one dangerous dog, which must be registered with the public safety department with two color photographs, have a microchip inserted for tracking, and always have the dog leashed or muzzled when outside of its indoor confinement. Additionally, owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, and owners must post a “Beware of Dog” sign on property.
  • CLAYBANKS – Ord. No. 2004-18, Section 2 – “Dangerous animals means and includes: (c) any pit bull dog.” Dangerous animals must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dangerous Dog” sign, owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, and two color photographs of the dog must be provided for identification to the township clerk.
  • DEARBORN HEIGHTS – Ord. Sec. 6-164(a) – “The owner of a pit bull dog must: (1) Be eighteen (18) years of age or older; (2) Have any such dog injected with an identifying microchip by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian; (3) Have any such dog registered and licensed as a pit bull dog with the city; and (4) Provide the city clerk with two (2) color photographs of the dog clearly showing the color and approximate size of the dog each time the dog’s license is obtained or renewed.”
  • ECORSE – Ord. Sec. 5-31(a) – “Because of the great inherent danger to the public health, welfare and safety, no person shall own, harbor or keep any dog commonly described as a pit bull terrier within the city.”
  • GROSSE POINTE WOODS – Ord. Sec. 6-94(a) – “Because of the great inherent danger to the public health, welfare and safety, no person shall own, harbor or keep any dog commonly described as a pit bull terrier within the city.”
  • HARPER WOODS – Ord. Sec. 4-28 – “While not breed specific, the following breeds of dogs shall be considered suspect as vicious and potentially dangerous: Akita, Alaskan Malamute, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Bull Mastiff, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, English Bull Terrier, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Presa Canario, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Wolf Hybrid and/or any mixed breed of the above.”
  • HARTFORD – Ord. Sec. 92.01(A) – “Because of the great inherent danger to the public health, welfare and safety, it shall be unlawful to keep, harbor, own, possess, walk on a leash, or allow to be at large, any pit bull dog at any time within the city.”
  • KINGSFORD – Ord. Sec. 8-122(a) – “No person shall possess, own, keep, or harbor a pit bull terrier within the municipal limits of the city.”
  • LAPEER – Ord. No. 3.08(G) – “The owner of any pit bull dog shall: (1) Keep such dog in a securely enclosed area or on a leash and muzzled at all times. (2) In addition to the other requirements of this Ordinance or of State law, register such dog with the Lapeer City Police Department. The registration shall be made on a form furnished by the Police Department and shall provide the name and address of the dog’s owner, the address of where the dog is kept, and shall identify or describe the dog as much as reasonably possible.”
  • MELVINDALE – Ord. Sec. 4-139(a) – “It shall be unlawful for any person to acquire, possess or maintain, within the city any pit bull terrier…” unless that possession or ownership existed before the effective date of the ban.
  • MORENCI – Ord. 5-38 – “Vicious dog” means and includes any pitbull dog. Vicious dogs must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors and owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership.
  • MUSKEGON – Ord. 6-1(3) – “Dangerous animal” means and includes any pitbull dog. Dangerous animals must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dog” sign, owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, and owners are limited to one pitbull dog.
  • MUSKEGON CHARTER TOWNSHIP – Ord. 4-1(3) – “Dangerous animal” means and includes any pitbull dog. Dangerous animals must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dangerous Animal” sign, owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, two color photographs of the dog must be provided for identification to the township clerk, and new offspring must be reported within 6 weeks of birth.
  • MUSKEGON HEIGHTS – Ord. 14-1(3) – “Dangerous and exotic animals” means and includes any pitbull dog. Dangerous and exotic animal must be registered with the police department with approval of the city manager and owners must pay a $150.00 registration fee. Pit bull dogs must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dog” sign, and owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership.
  • NEWAYGO – Ord. 6-9(h) – There is a rebuttable presumption that pit bull dogs are considered a “vicious dog”. Vicious dog owners must get a vicious dog license from the city, obtain liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, and vicious dogs must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dog” sign, and two color photographs of the dog must be provided for identification to the city clerk.
  • ROOSEVELT PARK – Ord. 6-2 – “Dangerous animal” means and includes any pitbull dog. Dangerous animals must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dog” sign, owners must carry $100,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, and owners are limited to one pitbull dog.
  • ROSCOMMON COUNTY – Ord. 5-9, Sec. 3 – “There shall be a rebuttable presumption that Pit Bull dogs are vicious animals.” “Vicious animals” must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dog” sign, owners must carry $500,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, and two color photographs of the animal must be provided to the Animal Control Officer.
  • SAGINAW – Ord. 94.025 – “Dangerous dog” includes “any dog of a breed that appears on the list of the breeds established by City Council.” “Dangerous dogs” be registered with the city clerk (with registration fee), must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post sign indicating dangerous dog, and owners must report attacks, disposition, births or deaths of such dogs in one business day. The list of breeds is maintained on the City of Saginaw web site.
  • SOUTHGATE – Ord. 610.14 – Owners of pit bulls shall be 18 years old or older, have dogs tattooed and registered/licensed with city, keep dog secured in enclosed area or on leash and muzzled, provide information of where dog was acquired to city, notify animal shelter in 24 hours that animal is at large, attacked, died, sold or died.
  • SYLVAN LAKE – Ord. No. 10-83 – “It shall be unlawful for any person to acquire, possess or maintain, within the city any pit bull terrier…” unless that possession or ownership existed before the effective date of the ban.
  • TAWAS CITY – Ord. 4-1(b) – “It shall be unlawful for any person to harbor pit bulls, dangerous animals, poisonous reptiles or poisonous insects in any zoning district in the city.”
  • VILLAGE OF BRECKENRIDGE – Ord. 610.01(11) – “There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a pit bull dog is a vicious dog.” It is unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the village any vicious dog. If the district court declares an existing dog vicious, then the owner must acquire a vicious dog license, obtain liability insurance within limits set by the village council, confine the dog to an enclosed area or otherwise keep it muzzled and leashed when out with owner, post “Beware of Dog” sign, provide two color photographs of the dog to the police department, and report incidents of birth, removal, death or attacks within 10 days. If there is no compliance, the dog shall be euthanized.
  • VILLAGE OF LAKEWOOD CLUB – Ord. No. 7-A – “Dangerous animals” means and includes any pit bull dog. Dangerous animals must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post a “Beware of Dangerous Animal” sign, owners must carry $50,000.00 of liability insurance for bodily injury/death caused by ownership, two color photographs of the dog must be provided for identification to the village clerk, and new offspring must be reported within 6 weeks of birth.
  • WATERFORD CHARTER TOWNSHIP – Ord. 3-023 and Ord. 3-025 – “It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess or maintain, within the Township, any pit bull terrier…”. It is also unlawful to own, possess or maintain within the Township any wolf hybrid.
  • WEST BRANCH – Ord. 90-30 – “[I]t is unlawful for any person to keep, harbor, possess, walk on a leash, or allow to be at large any Pit Bull dog at any time within the corporate limits of the City of West Branch.”
  • YPSILANTI CHARTER TOWNSHIP – Ord. 14-1(b) – “No person may own, keep, reside with or harbor a pit bull within the township that is not spayed or not neutered.”
  • ZILWAUKEE – Ord. 4-26(3) – “Dangerous dog” includes “[a]ny dog of a breed that appears consistently in the top five of the breeds on credible, analytical listings of ‘most dangerous dogs’ as verified and supplemented by local data and records for Saginaw County.” “Dangerous dogs” be registered with the city clerk (with registration fee), must not leave a kennel or pen without a leash, must be securely confined indoors, owners must post sign indicating dangerous dog, and owners must report attacks, disposition, births or deaths of such dogs in one business day. The list of breeds is maintained on the Saginaw County web site.

Depending on the municipality, a violation of these breed-specific laws can lead to a dog owner being responsible for a civil infraction or guilty of a misdemeanor conviction. These penalties may include a fine, but a misdemeanor conviction carries the possibility of probation or up to 90 days in jail under egregious circumstances. Until any superseding state legislation passes, each dog owner needs to be aware of their responsibilities under the law.

If you have further questions about Michigan’s dog statutes and ordinances or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

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