In the Utica/Rome area and throughout most of NY State, the Dangerous Dog law has set guidelines for what constitutes a problem and how to address it. If you live in a local municipality that also has a leash law (Utica and Rome for example) you may have additional fuel to use in pursuing a problem dog.
An excellent resource is this site by lawyer James Reed. He is an upstate NY dog owner and lover himself practicing in Elmira, which is a zip down Rt 81 and then west on Rt 17, so he can see both sides of the conflicts.
Mr. Reed points out that the owner of a dog designated as “dangerous” can face fines and even jail time. If the dog pulls off an attack that is very serious and/or occurred after the dog was labeled as “dangerous” the penalties will be more serious.
The first step, if a dog has attacked you or your pets, is to notify your animal control officer. The Humane Society of Rome has a listing of area animal control officers. Additional animal control officers are listed on Mr. Reed’s site.
Notifying your animal control officer applies if you or your dog were actually attacked or if the dog in question simply threatened to attack. If you have serious concerns about a dog, even though nothing has happened yet, you can also file a notice of concern with your animal control officer. That helps to establish a pattern of behavior. Dogs can be labeled as having “vicious propensities”. Those behaviors suggest that this dog would bite if given the chance. NY State does not have a “one bite rule” whereby the first time the dog bites someone it can be overlooked.
The circumstances of the attack will be considered. If the dog was protecting his house and you entered his property, he has the right to at least threaten you. If you are on public property and the dog comes out to go after you, the dog is in the wrong.
The animal control officer will make a complete report. If you have witnesses to your incident or know of other people who have been threatened or attacked by this same dog, now is the time to collect statements. The local court and the animal control officer will rely on you to find evidence to back up your claims. Photos of where the incident took place could be helpful as well. Document everything you can think of.
If you or your pet were injured, medical statements and possibly photos of the injuries will assist your case. Penalties can range from requiring the dog to wear a muzzle to additional training for the dog to euthanasia. Along with the “dangerous dog” court situation, civil claims can also be made. These would be to help with paying for medical bills for you or your pet, possible compensation for lost work time, etc.