Last Updated on May 22, 2024

What Does Animal Control Actually Do? And How Does It Relate to Personal Injury

Animal control is a local government entity that focuses on animal welfare and public safety. With roots dating back to the 19th century, animal control agencies have evolved to play a crucial role in enforcing animal-related laws, protecting communities from dangerous animals, and promoting responsible pet ownership.

Specific roles of local animal control institutions vary based on local and state laws. Generally speaking, the priorities of such institutions revolve around:

  • Enforcing animal-related laws and ordinances
  • Protecting public safety by handling dangerous or stray animals
  • Promoting animal welfare and investigating cases of animal cruelty or neglect
  • Facilitating pet licensing, vaccinations, and population control through spay/neuter programs
  • Educating the public about responsible pet ownership

In New York, various provisions guide animal control institutions in fostering harmony between human society and our animal companions. These are mostly provided in the Dangerous Dog Law 108(24) and Agriculture & Markets Law.

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Executive Roles and Powers of Animal Control

Animal control acts as the police force for animal-related cases. With the goal of keeping the public safe, animal control institutions may intervene in anything within their jurisdiction.

Here are some typical cases where they step in:

Responding to animal bites and attacks
Fostering stray animals
Investigating animal cruelty and neglect
Regulation of dangerous or exotic animals
Corralling loose livestock
Rabies control
Responding to nuisance complaints

In New York, the Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7, is a key statute that covers the licensing, identification, and control of dogs, including the definition and process for determining a "dangerous dog."

How Does Animal Control Help in Personal Injury Cases?

In New York City alone, about 6,028 dog bite incidents occur annually according to an old report. Apart from personal injuries, it was found that dog bite victims also suffered from psychological trauma after the incident. Medical bills following the incident amounted to about $3,000. Children ages 5 to 12 are the most common victims of such attacks.

In incidents resulting to personal injury, animal control institutions may assist by:

  • Investigating animal bites and attacks and providing documentation
  • Enforcing animal control laws, which can support findings of negligence
  • Determining if a dog is dangerous, which can impact the owner's liability
  • Quarantining animals to protect public health and gather evidence
  • Providing expert testimony regarding the incident, animal behavior, and relevant laws

In the state of New York, here are some considerations that pet owners must keep in mind:

Strict liability for medical costsUnder New York's Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7, Section 123, dog owners are strictly liable for the medical costs associated with injuries caused by their dog if the dog was previously declared "dangerous" by a court or animal control officer. This means that if a dangerous dog causes injury, the owner is automatically responsible for the victim's medical expenses, regardless of whether the owner knew the dog was dangerous or took steps to prevent the incident.
"One bite" rule for other damagesFor damages beyond medical costs (i.e., pain and suffering or lost wages) New York follows the "one bite" rule. Under this rule, the dog owner is only liable if the victim can prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous propensities – such as a history of aggressive behavior or prior bites. This is often referred to as the "vicious propensity" standard.
NegligenceIn some cases, a dog owner may also be liable under a negligence theory if they fail to take reasonable steps to prevent their dog from causing harm, such as violating local leash laws or failing to properly restrain the dog.
Landlord liabilityIn certain situations, a landlord may be liable for injuries caused by a tenant's dog if the landlord knew or should have known about the dog's vicious propensities and had the authority to remove the dog or the tenant from the property.

It's important to note that New York does not have a statewide statute specifically addressing dog owner liability. Instead, liability is determined through a combination of case law, local ordinances, and the general principles outlined above.

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When Should You Contact Animal Control?

You should contact animal control if you were bit or attacked by an animal; if you witness animal cruelty or neglect; or if you encounter a stray or dangerous animal in your community. Animal control can investigate the incident, ensure the animal is properly quarantined, and provide guidance on the next steps.

Contacting a personal injury lawyer after an animal bite incident is also crucial for protecting your legal rights and securing fair compensation. A skilled attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process, gather evidence to support your claim, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, represent you in court to ensure you receive the financial recovery you deserve for your injuries and losses.

Speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer After Talking with Animal Control

At the Porter Law Group, our team of proven personal injury lawyers delivers ideal results. We take pride in helping families rebuild after unfavorable circumstances. We operate on a contingency basis – meaning you do not need to pay us anything unless we win your case. Through this approach, we can better support families during their times of need.

If you or a loved one is a victim of a personal injury related to an animal injury, please reach out to us for a non-obligatory free case evaluation. You can also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or  info@porterlawteam.com to schedule a consultation.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on May 22, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on May 22, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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