Vicious Animal Ordinance

Effective February 21, 2010 the City of Livonia has an ordinance in place to help protect citizens from vicious and potentially vicious animals.  


  • This was a consensus ordinance put together with a great deal of citizen input and discussion among City Council, Animal Control Officers, and lawyers.  
  • This ordinance is not a leash law. It does require dogs that are formally classified as vicious or potentially vicious to be on a leash and muzzled in public, however. 
  • This ordinance does not target specific breeds, but rather dangerous behaviors. It is legal to own any breed of dog. 
  • The goal is to ensure the safety of our community against threats from vicious animals.

Please review the FAQs below.  For the complete Chapter 7 Vicious Animals Ordinance 2851, click here (PDF).


Vicious Animal Ordinance FAQ


Will this apply to dogs who have bitten someone in the past?  No. This ordinance only applies to new cases since the ordinance went into effect.  However, if an animal has a known history of aggressive behavior and/or biting, if there is a new incident involving this animal then its history will be taken into account in determining the categorization.


My Neighbor’s dog barks and growls and jumps on the fence. What can I do?   Barking or other annoyance behaviors are not addressed under this ordinance.  Barking at the fence line does not necessarily mean the animal is vicious.  Animals are naturally territorial.   Barking, growling and jumping are considered normal territorial behaviors for dogs.  If the dog is pulling or lunging, bearing its teeth, hackles up, these are signs of more aggressive behavior, as are repeated charging, snarling, biting, and lunging without provocation. There are specific criteria for a dog to be declared vicious such as the tendency “to attack without provocation, to cause injury or to threaten the safety of a person or other domestic animal, or harbored for the purpose of fighting.” Vicious behavior first needs to be logged and documented. Keep a log with dates, times, and detailed circumstances and take photos and videos. Contact the Animal Control Office for investigation and follow up. Please note investigation requires a complainant who cannot remain anonymous if it results in a formal vicious or potentially vicious classification of the animal or a ticket.


My neighbor has a pitbull and it makes me nervous.  Is this covered under the ordinance?  This ordinance is not breed specific and owning a pitbull is not against the law.  This ordinance is behavior based, so the animal would need to exhibit vicious behavior in order for the situation to be addressed.


My animal bit someone who was teasing it.  Does this mean it will be categorized as vicious?   The ordinance exempts situations when animals were provoked into biting.


If my dog bites someone who came onto my property, is it my fault?   The ordinance excludes trespassers on the dog’s property, in other words, the animal has a right to defend your home against intruders engaged in unlawful activity.  Trespassers do not include anyone engaged in a lawful activity such as postal carriers, meter readers, visitors, or strangers knocking on your door for legitimate purposes.  "Trespassers" also, importantly, do not include children running across the property line onto your property to get a ball, etc.  In these situations, the animal should be restrained from contact as the owner is responsible for biting, attacks, etc. on their property and the dog could be categorized as vicious or potentially vicious.


Is my Invisible Fence considered proper confinement?  Fences are meant not only to confine and keep in, but also serve to keep others out.  In general, if an animal is contained by an invisible fence that is not evident to a person or animal that strays within its boundaries, the owner is still liable if the enclosed animal attacks or bites.  If you are using an invisible fence we strongly encourage you to post a notice.


What are the consequences if a dog is declared vicious or potentially vicious?  More serious consequences are now proscribed by this ordinance than in the past.  These include containment on the animal in a six sided structure with a lock, use of a leash and muzzle in public, and requirement of liability insurance. Owners are also limited to no more than one vicious or potentially vicious dog on their property. There are also requirements for spaying/neutering, micro chipping, and obedience training. Formal tracking is required which includes notifying the police department if the animal escapes, of any changes in address, and upon the death or sale of the animal. Owners who have an animal classified as such will be given a copy of the ordinance and our Animal Control officers will work with them to ensure their compliance and help with their success in keeping the public safe.   


My Neighbor’s Dog has been classified as potentially vicious or vicious. What happens if they don’t follow the requirements?  There are serious consequences of not remaining within the ordinance requirements, which may include immediate confiscation of the animal at the owner’s expense. They could also loose the right to keep the animal which could lead to the destruction of the animal. Animal Control officers will do routine periodic inspections, and will follow up on any reports of problems.