Dog Bite Liability for Service & Support Animals

Dog Bite Liability for Service & Support Animals

by / Wednesday, 24 August 2022 / Published in Dog Bites
A blind man with a cane kneels next to a service dog.

People with disabilities can face a wide range of challenges in their day-to-day lives. In some cases, having a service animal can help lessen those challenges. Service dogs can be trained to help detect medical events before they occur and help with everyday activities, giving their owners a stronger sense of independence and confidence. And, of course, a service animal can help emotionally by providing companionship. But what happens if a service or support animal bites someone?

Michigan Laws for Service & Support Animals

Under Michigan law, there is a distinction between a service animal and a support animal. The state of Michigan defines a service animal as a dog or miniature horse trained to perform tasks directly related to and mitigate their disability, such as helping a blind person navigate a space or fetching items for a person in a wheelchair, or helping a person with a seizure disorder get to a safe location before a seizure occurs. On the other hand, emotional support, therapy, and companion animals can include other types of animals and those animals are not trained to provide any particular service; the companionship of the animal provides some type of benefit on its own.

Under this distinction, only recognized service animals are allowed into covered entities under the ADA, such as grocery stores, other retail establishments, restaurants, hospitals, and government offices. Emotional support, therapy, and companion animals are not required to be admitted to the same public spaces that service animals are; admittance is left to the discretion of the establishment. If a service animal is still in training, they must complete training before they can be allowed into spaces where service animals are allowed but other animals are not. In some cases, a business may voluntarily allow in-training service animals.

The ADA gives those with disabilities the option to train a service animal themselves rather than having it professionally trained. However, according to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, persons with disabilities are still required to make sure their service animal is adequately trained and kept under control. They also note that a person can be asked to remove their service animal if it is not housebroken or is out of control and steps aren’t being taken to control the animal’s behavior. 

Dog Bite Liability for Service & Support Animals

Service animals undergo significant training to support their owners and handle a wide range of settings. However, they are still animals and can potentially bite in some situations. Whether a dog is classified as a service animal or a support animal, it’s important for their owners to be well aware of that risk. In the state of Michigan, there is a strict liability dog bite law, which means owners of dogs can be held liable for dog bite injuries even if a dog doesn’t have a history of aggressive behavior. 

Contact a Michigan Dog Bite Lawyer

If you’ve been injured by a dog of any kind, whether it’s a family pet or a service or support dog, don’t hesitate to contact a dog bite lawyer. By contacting a lawyer, you’ll be able to get answers to your questions and make sure your case is handled correctly from the very beginning. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in helping dog bite victims in the state of Michigan. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Image: Gustavo Fring / Pexels

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