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New Jersey dangerous animal law puzzles residents

While towns and cities in New Jersey traditionally handle aggressive dogs, state law prohibits local public officials from taking certain actions that they might feel are both necessary and justified. Each town must comply with New Jersey's Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act, which the state passed after several months of debate amongst various groups.

According to the language of the law, authorities may only quarantine the animal immediately when the animal attack kills or seriously injures a person, or when the animal engages in dog fighting. Even then, an owner may have a court hearing and an appeal before authorities may finally destroy the animal.

The law has left an inconsistency of how to deal with potential dangerous canines between area counties. Even in an unprovoked dog attack against a human, some local authorities believe the state law does not allow them to quarantine the animal immediately. The law provides instead that once a court determines the dog to be "potentially dangerous," the pet owner must post signs on his property, ensure that the dog is properly restrained, pay a higher licensing fee and, in some cases, purchase insurance.

While the New Jersey law may have the noble aim of ensuring that pet owners do not lose their beloved companions without a good reason, it is possible that under this law, more dogs that have a history of aggressive behavior, may remain with their owners.

Although the law may allow a pet owner to continue to harbor an aggressive dog in some circumstances, the owner is still financially responsible for the injuries his or her dog causes. A person who has suffered personal injury from a dog bite may want to explore his or her legal options for getting full and fair compensation from the pet owner or the owner's insurance carrier.

Source: NorthJersey.com, "Laws on dangerous dogs confusing to towns, owners, attack victims," Denisa R. Supervile, Aug. 12, 2012

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