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Is a dog considered vicious when it bites or attacks a personIs a dog considered vicious when it bites or attacks a person? The following is a dog bite case to answer this question.

State v. Harmon Case

Two dogs were fighting each other.  One of the dogs was trespassing.  The dog that was trespassing inflicted wounds to the other dog.  A city officer issued a citation under a city ordinance to the trespassing dog’s owner for owning a vicious dog.

A vicious dog is defined under the city ordinance as a dog that has bitten, clawed or otherwise harmed, or constitutes a physical threat, or a dog whose temperament or habits endanger or menace any person or other animal without provocation by such person or animal. This term shall not include a dog that bites, attacks or menaces a person or other animal that has tormented or injured the dog.

Importantly, the statue did not require any previous knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies to be found guilty of the ordinance.  The Idaho Supreme Court found that the relevant inquiry at trial was whether the trespassing dog attacked a person or animal.  The court found that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support a finding that the trespassing dog attacked an animal, and therefore, was, by definition, a vicious dog.

The court also addressed the breed of the attacking dog.  The trial court referred to the dog as a pit bull but the dog was a mastiff.  Some counties and cities have passed laws outlawing the ownership of certain breeds of dogs.  The court, however, noted that he district court’s decision did not rely upon the breed of the dog, nor did it reference any breed-specific legislation.

The court concluded that sufficient evidence existed for a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Harmon owned a vicious dog. Harmon’s challenge to the citation fails because it was waived and, even if she raised it as a jurisdictional issue, such challenge fails. Also, the district court did not err by misidentifying the breed of Sage.

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