TITLE 16

Health and Safety

Regulatory Provisions Concerning Public Health

CHAPTER 30F. ANIMAL WELFARE

Subchapter V. Dangerous and Potentially Dangerous Dogs


For the purposes of this subchapter:

(1) "Animal welfare officer'' means an individual employed by the Department or employed by an independent contractor of the Department or a municipality for the purpose of enforcing dog control laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances.

(2) "Attack'' means the deliberate action of a dog, whether or not in response to a command by its owner, to bite, seize with its teeth, or pursue any human being or domestic animal with the obvious intent to kill, wound, injure, or otherwise harm the human being or domestic animal.

(3) "Dangerous dog'' means any dog that the Justice of the Peace Court has declared to be dangerous under § 3076F of this title or any potentially dangerous dog kept or maintained in violation of § 3077F(c) of this title.

(4) "Dog'' means any dog or dog hybrid.

(5) "Domestic animal'' means any dog, cat, poultry, or livestock.

(6) "Nondangerous dog'' means any dog that the Justice of the Peace Court has declared to be nondangerous under § 3080F of this title.

(7) "Owner'' means any person who owns, keeps, harbors, or is the custodian of a dog.

(8) "Physical injury'' means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

(9) "Potentially dangerous dog'' means any dog that the Justice of the Peace Court has declared to be potentially dangerous under § 3077F of this title.

(10) "Proper enclosure'' means securely confined indoors or a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure, suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the dog from escaping. Such pen or structure shall have secure sides and a secure top and shall also provide protection from the elements for the animal. If the pen or structure has no bottom secured to the sides, the sides must be embedded at least 2 feet into the ground.

(11) "Serious physical injury'' means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health, or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 80 Del. Laws, c. 157, § 1; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 31, § 2.;

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; repealed by 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6, eff. May 25, 2016.;

(a) An animal welfare officer shall seize and impound a dog suspected of being dangerous or potentially dangerous when the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the dog has engaged in 1 or more of the following:

(1) Killed or inflicted physical injury or serious physical injury upon a human being.

(2) Killed or inflicted serious physical injury upon a domestic animal, provided the domestic animal was on the property of its owner or under the immediate control of its owner.

(3) Chased or pursued a person, including a person on a bicycle, upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public or private property, other than the dog owner's property, in an apparent attitude of attack on 2 separate occasions within a 12-month period.

(4) Caused physical injury to a domestic animal, provided the domestic animal was on the property of its owner or under the immediate control of its owner, on more than one occasion in a 12-month period. For purposes of this paragraph (a)(4), "physical injury'' means impairment of physical condition and substantial pain.

(b) Any dog seized pursuant to this section shall be impounded until a final disposition as to whether the dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous. The Department shall take all reasonable action to determine the identity of the owner of the impounded dog. If the owner cannot be identified within 5 days of the dog's impoundment, unless earlier disposal is recommended by a doctor of veterinary services, the Department may dispose of the dog in accordance with this subchapter.

(c) The owner of any seized and impounded dog has a right to a hearing to determine whether the dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous.

(1) The Justice of the Peace Court is the Court of original and exclusive jurisdiction for hearings under this subsection.

(2) Unless the owner agrees to the proposed conditions, the Department shall file a civil action with the Justice of the Peace Court within 5 business days after impoundment of the dog and identification of the dog's owner and notice to the owner.

(d) The Justice of the Peace Court shall hold a hearing under this subsection within 30 days of the Department filing of a civil action.

(1) All Justice of the Peace Court Civil Rules apply to proceedings under this subchapter, except where otherwise stated.

(2) The Justice of the Peace Court shall keep a record, sufficient for judicial review, of all evidence taken at hearings under this subchapter, according to the Court's rules regarding the recording of proceedings.

(3) A hearing shall be held within 30 days of the Department filing a civil action. The dog may be released to its owner and the charges made under subsection (a) of this section may be dismissed, unless a delay is requested by the owner and approved by the Department for good cause at the Court's discretion.

(e) If the dog owner fails to appear for the hearing, the Justice of the Peace Court shall enter a default judgment. A motion to vacate a default judgment may be filed within 10 days of the entry of the default judgment. If no motion is filed, the Department shall dispose of the dog in accordance with this chapter.

(f) Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to interfere with the provisions for protecting human health from rabies in Chapter 82 of Title 3.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 79 Del. Laws, c. 374, § 2; 79 Del. Laws, c. 376, §§ 1, 5; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 3.;

(a) Notwithstanding § 3073F of this title, no dog shall be considered dangerous or potentially dangerous if a physical injury or serious physical injury was sustained by any of the following:

(1) A human being who, at the time the injury was sustained, was committing criminal trespass or other tort upon premises occupied by the owner of the dog, or was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.

(2) A domestic animal which, at the time the injury was sustained, was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog.

(3) A domestic animal while the dog was working as a hunting dog, herding dog, or predator control dog on the property of or under the control of its owner, and the injury was to a species or type of domestic animal appropriate to the work of the dog.

(b) Notwithstanding § 3073F of this title, no dog shall be considered dangerous or potentially dangerous if the dog was protecting or defending a person within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an attack or assault.

(c) Notwithstanding § 3073F of this title, no military, correctional, or police-owned dogs shall be considered dangerous or potentially dangerous if the attack or injury to a person or domestic animal occurs while the dog is performing duties as expected.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 79 Del. Laws, c. 376, § 2; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6.;

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; repealed by 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6, eff. May 25, 2016.;

(a) The Justice of the Peace Court may declare a dog to be dangerous if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the dog has done any of the following:

(1) Killed or inflicted physical injury or serious physical injury upon a human being.

(2) Killed or inflicted serious physical injury upon a domestic animal, provided the domestic animal was on the property of its owner or under the immediate control of its owner.

(3) Inflicted physical injury upon a domestic animal after the dog has been declared potentially dangerous under § 3077F of this title.

(b) If the Justice of the Peace Court declares a dog to be dangerous, it shall be unlawful for any person to keep or maintain such dog unless all of the following occur:

(1) The dog is spayed or neutered.

(2) The dog owner procures and maintains liability insurance in the amount of at least $100,000, covering any damage or injury which may be caused by such dog.

(3) The dog is confined by its owner within a proper enclosure, and whenever outside of the proper enclosure the dog is securely muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash, not exceeding 6 feet, and under the control of a responsible adult, or caged.

(4) The dog owner displays, in a conspicuous manner, a sign on the owner's premises warning that a dangerous dog is on the premises. The sign shall be visible and legible from the public highway or 100 feet, whichever is less.

(5) The dog owner immediately notifies the Department when the dog is loose, unconfined, has attacked a human being or another domestic animal, has been moved to another address, or dies.

(6) The owner meets any other condition that the Justice of the Peace Court has deemed reasonable, given the circumstances of the case.

(c) It shall be unlawful for the owner of a dangerous dog to sell, offer for sale, or give away said dog to any other person other than the Department. If a dangerous dog is given to the Department, the dog shall be disposed of by euthanasia in accordance with subchapter I of this chapter.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 79 Del. Laws, c. 376, § 3; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 4.;

(a) The Justice of the Peace Court may declare a dog to be potentially dangerous if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the dog has done any of the following:

(1) Attacked or inflicted physical injury upon a human being.

(2) Attacked or inflicted serious physical injury upon a domestic animal, provided the domestic animal was on the property of its owner or under the immediate control of its owner.

(3) Chased or pursued a person, including a person on a bicycle, upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public or private property, other than the dog owner's property, in an apparent attitude of attack on 2 separate occasions within a 12-month period.

(4) Caused physical injury to a domestic animal on more than one occasion in a 12-month period, provided the domestic animal was on the property of its owner or under the immediate control of its owner.

(b) No dog may be declared potentially dangerous based solely on the dog's breed or perceived breed.

(c) If the Justice of the Peace Court declares a dog to be potentially dangerous, it shall be unlawful for any person to keep or maintain the dog unless all of the following occur:

(1) The dog is spayed or neutered, provided the Justice of the Peace Court ordered the spaying or neutering as part of its decision in declaring the dog to be potentially dangerous.

(2) While on the dog owner's property, the dog is kept indoors or within a securely fenced yard from which it cannot escape.

(3) When off the owner's premises, the dog is restrained by a substantial chain or leash, not exceeding 6 feet, and is under the physical control of a responsible adult.

(4) The owner meets any other condition that the Justice of the Peace Court has deemed reasonable, given the circumstances of the case.

(d) If there are no additional instances of the behavior described in subsection (a) of this section within a 24-month period from the date the dog is declared potentially dangerous, the dog shall no longer be deemed a potentially dangerous dog.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 79 Del. Laws, c. 376, § 4; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 31, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 4.;

If the Justice of the Peace Court declares a dog dangerous or potentially dangerous, the Court shall include in its judgment the costs associated with the care of the dog while in the Department's custody. Prior to reclaiming the dog, the owner must reimburse the Department the amount indicated in the judgment or establish a payment plan approved by the Court. If the owner does not take either action within 10 days after judgement, ownership of the dog reverts to the Department and the Department may dispose of the dog by euthanasia in accordance with subchapter I of this chapter. If a dog is determined to be nondangerous under § 3080F of this title, the owner shall not be liable for the costs of impoundment.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 4.;

(a) For a violation of § 3076F(b)(4) or (b)(6) or § 3077F(c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3) or (c)(4) of this title, the owner of the dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $100. For a subsequent offense within 3 years of the original court ruling or acceptance of conditions concerning dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, the owner shall be fined not less than $100 or more than $200.

(b) For a violation of § 3076F(b)(1) or (b)(5) of this title, the owner of the dangerous dog shall be fined not less than $100 or more than $250. For a subsequent offense within 3 years of the original court ruling or acceptance of conditions concerning dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, the owner shall be fined not less than $250 or more than $500.

(c) For a violation of § 3076F(b)(2), (b)(3), or (c) of this title, the owner of the dangerous dog shall be fined not less than $250 or more than $1,000. For a subsequent offense within 3 years of the original court ruling or acceptance of conditions concerning dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, the owner shall be fined not less than $500 or more than $2,000.

(d) After a dog has been declared dangerous under § 3076F(a) of this title, only a dog that, without provocation, kills, attacks, or inflicts physical injury or serious physical injury upon a human being or domestic animal shall be seized and impounded by the Department and disposed of by euthanasia in accordance with subchapter I of this chapter. For purposes of this subsection, "provocation'' means any of the exceptions to finding a dog dangerous or potentially dangerous contained in 3074F(a) or (b) of this title.

(e) After a dog has been declared potentially dangerous under § 3077F of this title, a dog that inflicts physical injury upon a domestic animal, or a dog that chases or pursues a person, including a person on a bicycle, upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public or private property, other than the dog owner's property, in an apparent attitude of attack, the dog shall be seized and impounded by the Department and the Department may file a civil action for a hearing to determine whether the dog is dangerous.

(f) Any fine imposed for a violation of this subchapter may not be suspended to any amount less than the minimum prescribed fine. The Justice of the Peace Court shall remit all fines imposed following a conviction for violation of this subchapter to the Department.

77 Del. Laws, c. 428, § 8; 80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 31, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 4.;

If the Department fails to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that a dog is dangerous pursuant to § 3076F of this title or potentially dangerous pursuant to § 3077F of this title, the Justice of the Peace Court shall declare the dog to be nondangerous. Despite a finding that the dog is nondangerous, the Justice of the Peace Court may impose any condition deemed reasonable, given the circumstances of the case.

80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6.;

(a) If the Justice of the Peace Court determines that a dog is dangerous, the Court may direct the Department to dispose of the dog by euthanasia in accordance with subchapter I of this chapter. If the Justice of the Peace Court does not order euthanasia, the owner shall comply with all conditions that the Court orders under § 3076F(b)(6) of this title, within 30 days from the date of the order. The Justice of the Peace Court may order the dog to remain in the custody of the State until all conditions have been met.

(b) If the Justice of the Peace Court determines that a dog is potentially dangerous, the owner shall comply with all conditions that the Court orders under § 3077F(c)(4) of this title, within 30 days from the date of the order. The Justice of the Peace Court may order the dog to remain in the custody of the State until all conditions have been met.

(c) If another incident occurs within the period of time allowed for compliance under subsection (a) or (b) of this section, the Department shall immediately seize the dog and dispose of it in accordance with subchapter I of this chapter.

(d) If the Justice of the Peace Court determines a dog to be nondangerous, the dog shall be released to its owner, subject to any conditions imposed under § 3080F of this title.

(e) The Department or the owner, if the Justice of the Peace orders the dog to be euthanized, may appeal the Justice of the Peace Court's decision to the Court of Common Pleas within 15 days of the entry of the decision. The Court of Common Pleas shall review the appeal on the record. The filing of an appeal acts as a stay of the Justice of the Peace Court's decision, pending final disposition of the appeal. The appellant shall pay the cost of transcribing the Justice of the Peace Court recording and all documents must be submitted to the Court of Common Pleas within 15 days of filing an appeal.

80 Del. Laws, c. 248, § 6; 81 Del. Laws, c. 31, § 2; 81 Del. Laws, c. 96, § 4.;