Hi everybody! Maya here. The official mascot and true owner of Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC Law Office. With spring finally here I am really itching (I promise I don’t have fleas!) to run around and stretch my paws out. The owners of the firm (Mark and Michelle) thought it would be a good idea if I lightened the mood and informed everybody on dog law here in Wisconsin. I know everyone is wondering, “How can Maya type?”; don’t worry, I barked out my thoughts to Mark and I made him type this up for me. We all know who the REAL owner is. I’ve got him on a short leash.
Dog law can be “ruff” for owner’s if you are not careful. Wisconsin Chapter 174, Dogs, lays out the laws on Dogs in Wisconsin. If you violate Chapter 174, you’ll surely end up in the doghouse. Luckily it is a short chapter so giving it a quick scan is recommended. I’m going to talk about two things today: (1) when and how an individual can take restraining action against a dog and; (2) owner’s liability for damages that dogs cause.
First, sometimes my fellow canines can be dangerous and you humans need to protect yourselves. Wisconsin law lay out requirements for intentionally killing a dog and when it can be done. In general, an individual may intentionally kill another’s dog when that person is threatened with serious bodily harm and 1) other restraining actions were tried and failed or 2) immediate action is necessary. However, humans have to be careful because a person who violates this law may be liable to the owner of the dog for double damages and also may be subject to penalties such as a fine of up to $500 or 60 days in jail. A person killing a dog may also be subject to criminal prosecution for mistreating animals.
I know people get sad when their dog dies, heck I’ve seen Old Yeller, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court is meaner than Cruella de Vil when it comes to recovering damages for your hurt feelings. The Court stated in a case titled Rabideau v. City of Racine, 243 Wis.2d 486 (2001) that an owner whose dog was killed by someone else could not recover on the theory of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (which is a fancy way of saying you should get some money damages because you are sad you lost your dog). The court stated that a dog is property (the nerve!) and out of public policy concerns, you cannot have a tort claim based on the loss of property.
However, the Court did leave open the option for an Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claim, stating that if an individual killed a dog solely to cause damage to the individual who owned the dog. You need to suffer an extreme disabling emotional response to the defendant’s conduct to recover under that theory though.
Second, if your dog is anything like me, sometimes I like to go nosing around in places where I don’t belong and I can mess up the neighbor’s garden or even worse I injure a person. Michelle gets mad at me but the neighbors also can make Michelle pay. Owners of dogs can be liable for those attacks when the barks turn into bites. If there is no notice to the dog owner when the dog destroys the neighbor’s fence, the owner may be required to pay for any damages I cause and may be required to pay a penalty of up to $500. If the owner did know that the dog had a history of doing these bad things, the owner may have to pay double the damages and be required to pay penalty up to $1,000 for the dog’s bad deeds.
While Wisconsin law might not be man’s best friend regarding dogs, the law itself is pretty clear on what dog owners could get in trouble for. If you have any questions or concerns contact my owners at Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC. My work here is done, time for a cat nap! Wait, wrong animal….rats.