Dangerous Dogs


It’s a nightmare for any dog owner. An injured person shows up on your doorstep claiming that your dog attacked her. She states that she has called an ambulance and animal control.

She then talks about your dog being put down because it’s dangerous. You are concerned because your pet has never shown aggression in any way. You wonder if you will lose your pet.

What is a Dangerous Dog?

“Dangerous Dog” is defined in Texas law. It means a dog that either makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept; or commits unprovoked acts that cause a person to reasonably believe the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person, and the acts occur in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept.

—See Definitions—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.041(2)

Basically, a Dangerous Dog is one that is aggressive towards people when she isn’t being provoked, and when she is outside of her enclosure (read pen, crate, run, fenced-in yard, etc.).

What if My Dog is Reported?

If your dog is reported as being aggressive (i.e., the dangerous dog definition above), you will receive a notice that a report has been filed. You will then have no more than five days after the date you receive the notice to deliver your dog to animal control. If you fail to deliver your dog, a court will issue a warrant authorizing animal control to seize your dog.

—See Reporting of Incident—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.0422(b)-(c)

Should you receive such notice, consider speaking with the animal control authority about impounding your pet at a place of your choosing (i.e., her vet or her boarding facility), so she can be in a more familiar and comfortable environment during this stressful time.

Not later than the tenth day after your pet has been delivered to animal control, the court will hold a hearing to determine if your dog is dangerous. If the court determines that you own a dangerous dog, you can appeal the decision, and can request a jury trial.

—See Hearing—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.0423

—See Appeal—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.0424

What if My Dog is Dangerous?

No later than thirty days after you learn that you own a dangerous dog, you must:

  • Register your pet with the animal control authority in for the area in which the dangerous dog is kept;
  • Restrain your pet at all times on a leash or in a secure enclosure;
  • Obtain liability insurance coverage or show financial responsibility in an amount of at least $100,000 and provide proof to animal control; and
  • Comply with any applicable municipal or county regulation, requirement, or restriction on dangerous dogs.

If you do not comply with the above requirements, you must deliver your pet to animal control within the thirty days after you learn that you own a dangerous dog, and the court will order the humane destruction of your pet.

—See Requirements for Owner of Dangerous Dog—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.042(a)-(b), (e)

Under Texas law, a person learns that she is the owner of a dangerous dog when either: (1) the owner knows of an attack described above; (2) when the owner receives notice that a justice court, county court, or municipal court has found that the dog is dangerous; or (3) the owner is informed by the animal control authority that the dog is a dangerous dog.

—See Requirements for Owner of Dangerous Dog—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.042(g)

What is the Cost for Registration?

Your pet must be registered annually so long as you present proof of: liability insurance or financial responsibility; current rabies vaccination of the dangerous dog; and the secure enclosure in which the dangerous dog is kept. Then, you must pay an annual registration fee of $50.00. Animal control will provide you with a registration tag that must be placed on your pet’s collar.

—See Registration—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.043(a)-(b)

What Else Should I Know?

There are continuing notification requirements if you sell your pet or move to a new address. You have fourteen days after the date of the sale or move to notify animal control in the new area. Animal control will ask you to present the prior registration tag and payment of a $25.00 fee, at which point they will issue a tag containing the new information.

—See Registration—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.043(c)

You also have a duty to notify animal control of any attacks your pet makes on people.

—See Registration—Tex. Health & Safety Code §822.043(d)

Owning a so-called Dangerous Dog can sound scary and irresponsible, but if you comply with state law, you can have a long and safe relationship with your pet.

–Authored by Carrie A. Harris, Esq.,

Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division

1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

[email protected]