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Michigan Dog Bite Laws

Humans and canines usually make great companions. However, when man's best friend bites a person, that relationship is drastically altered. Victims of dog bites have the option of seeking damages for their injuries. While dogs can't be held accountable for exhibiting their natural behavior, "pet parents" can, depending on their state's laws. Each state's laws governing dog bites vary and the liability of the dog owner or other responsible party depends on the jurisdiction where the dog bite occurred.

Strict Liability

Some states have a "free-bite" rule if the dog has no history of aggression and this is the first time that the dog has bitten someone. In these states, an owner may not be held liable for their dog's first bite as they lacked notice of a dog's dangerous tendencies. However, this law doesn't apply in Michigan, which recognizes strict liability. This means that the owner of the dog is liable for any resulting damages whenever their pet bites someone, unless they can properly defend against the claims. The owner may try to defend against liability by showing that the victim provoked the dog or that the victim was trespassing when the bite occurred.

Michigan Dog Bite Laws Overview

The best way to fully understand a statute is by working with an attorney. However, a plain language guide can be a first step to becoming familiar with the law. Read the chart below for a helpful overview on Michigan dog bite laws.


Michigan Compiled Laws Chapter 287, Section 287.351



Standard of Proof

If you suffered a dog bite in Michigan, you don't have to prove that the dog owner was at fault or was negligent. Rather, you must show the following:

  • Your injury was caused by the dog bite;
  • You didn't provoke the dog; and
  • You were in a public place or you were lawfully in a private place when the bite occurred.

A person is considered "lawfully in the owner's private place" under the following conditions:

  • In the performance of any duty imposed by them by the laws of the state;
  • In the performance of any duty imposed by them by U.S. postal regulations; and
  • If the person is on the owner's property as an invited guest, business customer, or client.


The recoverable damages will depend on:

  • The severity of the injuries;
  • Whether the injuries are permanent;
  • The amount of medical bills, wage loss, and other factors (the level of scarring, emotional distress, and humiliation).

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for receiving compensation is 3 years. It begins running from the date that the dog bit occurred.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Michigan Dog Bite Laws: Related Resources

Learn More About Michigan Dog Bite Laws from an Attorney

If you've been bitten by a dog and suffered injuries as a result, you should talk to a legal professional. Even if you didn't seek immediate medical attention, you may be able to recover damages. Contact a local Michigan personal injury attorney who can investigate how Michigan dog bite laws apply to your specific situation.

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