Owning a Dangerous Dog in New Mexico
Dogs are like children. They’re loveable, fun, loyal, and sometimes disobedient.
However, dangerous dogs require special handling.
And it’s good to know ahead of time that if your dog attacks a person or another domestic animal, you could face criminal charges.
Owning a dangerous dog in New Mexico comes with potential legal liability.
You could face a felony charge and even prison time, not to mention civil liability if your dog attacks.
The experienced defense lawyers at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices can work with you to develop a winning defense if you face accusations concerning a dangerous dog attack.
What Are the Dangerous Dog Laws in New Mexico?
Article 1A of chapter 77 of the New Mexico Statutes is the state’s Dangerous Dog Act (the Act). You should have a thorough understanding of the Act if you own a dog.
Moreover, you should contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if you have any questions about your potential exposure to criminal charges.
The Act defines a dangerous dog as a canine that caused a serious injury to a person or domestic animal.
The damage does not necessarily have to stem from a bite but could be from any act of aggression.
The Act also defines the concept of a potentially dangerous dog as well. A potentially dangerous dog is a dog that:
- Poses a threat to public safety because it caused an injury to a person or domestic animal that is not considered a serious injury;
- Chases or menaces a person or domestic animal aggressively and without provocation; or
- Acts in a highly-aggressive manner when in an enclosed area while apparently possessing the ability to jump over the barrier.
The definition of potentially dangerous dogs is intentionally broad. Almost any dog at any time could exhibit these behaviors.
Notwithstanding, the Act also creates an exception to the dangerous dog rule.
Exceptions to the Dangerous Dog Rule
Under the Act, a dog is neither a dangerous dog nor a potentially dangerous dog when:
- The dog worked alongside law enforcement for official purposes;
- An injury occurred when the person or animal trespassed upon the dog or dog owner’s premises;
- The alleged victim provoked, tormented, abused the dog or had done so repeatedly in the past;
- The dog inflicted an injury while the victim was committing or attempting to commit a crime; or
- Some instinctive stimulus compelled the dog to react—such as in response to pain or an injury—while protecting itself or its offspring or defending its owner or another domestic animal from attack.
A skilled and experienced attorney can help you fight allegations that you own a dangerous dog.
You will not have to worry about criminal liability if the animal control authority does not brand your dog as dangerous or potentially dangerous.
What Is the Procedure to Determine If Your Dog Is Dangerous?
The Act does not explicitly mention dangerous dog breeds in New Mexico. However, your local government may have a law that does.
You should check with your local animal control officer to be sure before adopting a dog.
An animal control officer has the authority to determine whether your dog is dangerous. However, the animal control officer’s opinion is not the final word.
Suppose the animal control officer has probable cause to believe that your pet meets the definition of a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog.
In that case, the officer can ask the court for a search warrant to seize your dog.
This action essentially opens a case in court. The animal control officer has 14 days to petition the judge for a ruling on whether the dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous.
You get your dog back immediately if the animal control officer does not file a petition. And if the officer does file, you have the right to contest the petition.
The judge must find clear and convincing evidence that your dog is either dangerous or potentially dangerous and poses a threat to public safety.
Clear and convincing evidence is a high standard of proof but not as high as beyond a reasonable doubt.
Alternatively, you can agree that your dog is dangerous and avoid a hearing if you want.
The animal control officer must impound your dog until the case is over or until you comply with the requirements to get a registration certificate.
You have 30 days to get the appropriate certification.
The ownership requirements for a dangerous dog are onerous, but failing to comply with the rules could subject you to criminal penalties.
Because the rules are so stringent, you should do what you can to avoid a judicial determination that you have a dangerous dog.
Dangerous Dog Owner Liability
The penalties for owning a dangerous dog could be severe if your dog injures another person or a domestic animal.
As a dangerous dog owner, you could face criminal sanctions for:
- Keeping a dangerous dog without a certificate;
- Violating the registration requirements;
- Failing to notify the animal control authorities of an attack or escape;
- Failing to notify the animal control authorities within five days that the dog died; and
- Not reporting the fact that you no longer own the dog to animal control.
These acts constitute a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
You could face a felony charge as the owner of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog for:
- A subsequent offense alleging a violation of the certification requirements;
- An incident that causes serious injury or death to a domestic animal without provocation; or
- A serious injury or death to a human without provocation.
For these charges to stick, the prosecution has to prove that you knew the dog had the propensity to inflict a serious injury, and a court ruled that your dog was dangerous or potentially dangerous.
Serious injuries or death caused by a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog result in either third or fourth-degree felony charges.
The penalties range from 18 months to six years in prison.
Contact Us Right Away if You Have Charges from Owning a Dangerous Dog In New Mexico
If you have a dangerous dog and the authorities accuse you of a crime, you need experienced help.
At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we have over 20 years of criminal defense experience.
We fight aggressively for our clients to clear their names—it’s our number one priority. Call us today to find out more.