An interesting case in MI: A couple engaged to be married, who between them owned three dogs, kept the dogs in their fenced yard with warning signs posted. A 6 year old neighbor girl and her friend wanted to come in the yard one day while the man’s niece (also a resident) was home. The niece told them no, don’t come in the yard. The 6 year old, apparently without adult supervision, opened the gate to the fence anyway and went into the yard. The dogs mauled her. The man and the woman who owned the dogs were charged with keeping dangerous animals and agreed to have the dogs killed.
Michigan law dictates that an animal can not be declared dangerous for attacking a trespasser. In the case against the male owner, prosecutors argued that a 6 year old can not be a trespasser since the child would be unable to make such a distinction. The jury convicted the man and sentencing is scheduled for next month. The trial against the fiancee is set to begin next week.
Here are my questions:
Do parents/caregivers have the right to expect their 6 year old children to be safe in the neighborhood, even when not supervised by an adult, and even when the child is trespassing on to someone else’s property? (Regardless of whether you believe the child could knowingly trespass or not.)
If state law says a dog can’t be declared dangerous for attacking a trespasser (which is a reason some people have dogs – for protection) and the argument is made in court that the child is too young to knowingly trespass, are we not then making the assumption that dogs must be somehow capable of discerning trespassers of sufficient mental maturity to understand that trespassing is illegal vs. trespassers who are not capable of this understanding? Does the law need to be re-written?
If the couple had left a jug of bleach on the porch, and the kid unlocked the gate, walked up to the porch and drank the bleach, would the couple have been charged with a crime?
Are charges against the girl’s parents/caregivers appropriate?