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Use of Deadly Force Against Dangerous Animals in Michigan

When it comes to the use of force and deadly force to defend oneself, others, or property from animal attacks, Michigan law is a hodgepodge of different laws that are not contained in just one section of statutes.

Statutes justifying conduct, including self-defense, against certain specific large carnivores and other dangerous wild animals do exist, but no law provides general immunity from prosecution for protecting yourself or others against wild animal attacks. While there are legitimate reasons why the use of deadly force against animals in Michigan is justifiable, it is important to retain a skilled gun attorney that can build a defense and advocate for you.

Large Carnivores Including Bears and Cougars

According to Michigan’s Large Carnivore Act, § 287.1111, a person is permitted to kill a large carnivore if the person sees a large carnivore chasing, attacking, injuring, or killing a person, livestock, or poultry. In that instance, the use of deadly force against animals in Michigan is justified.

This law also protects an actor for the killing of a mammalian pet (including dogs or cats). It permits the killing of such animals and protects a person acting in self-defense or the defense of others from being sued for damages. However, if another person owns the large carnivore and possesses a proper permit, then the value of the animal may be recovered.

It is important to know how the law defines large carnivore. According to § 287.1102(f), a large carnivore is any type of wild or captive bred cat, including by way of example, a lion, leopard, jaguar, tiger, cougar, panther, and cheetah. Bears are also considered large carnivores but wolves and coyotes are conspicuously absent from this definition.

Other Dangerous Wild Animals

Animals, even dangerous animals, have a high degree of protection in Michigan. That does not mean a person cannot ever kill a dangerous wild animal in self-defense, but it does mean that doing so is wrought with potential civil or criminal liabilities.

Dangerous Dogs

According to Michigan law, § 287.321, a dangerous animal means a dog or other animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog. The use of deadly force against animals in Michigan, specifically against dogs, is a little more

If a dog has killed or caused serious injury to a person, this dog cannot be destroyed without a court becoming involved and essentially approving the animal’s destruction. In other words, a court order may, in fact, be necessary before the animal can be killed.

Michigan’s dog law, in § 287.279, provides that any person may kill any dog that they see in the act of pursuing, worrying, or wounding any livestock or poultry or attacking persons, and there shall be no liability for such killing. Otherwise, it is always unlawful for any person, other than a law enforcement officer, to kill or injure any dog that has a license tag for the current year.

Self-Defense Killing of Dangerous Animals

The law regarding the self-defense killing of dangerous animals, including wolves and coyotes, is not specifically enumerated. This means a person has no specific right to shoot any animal, other than a dog, in self-defense or the defense of others, even if he or she has an honest and reasonable belief that death or great bodily injury is imminent.

The one exception pertains to dogs that are attacking persons (note the present tense).

Because no ownership interest is involved, there is no requirement of obtaining a court order prior to the destruction of a wild animal. However, a permit or hunting license may or may be required, depending on the situation. Birds are highly protected in Michigan, so it is always precarious to shoot them without a permit.

Role of a Department of Natural Resources Officer

If a person ever had occasion to kill a dangerous animal in self-defense, then it would be up to a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officer to decide what would happen.

If the DNR finds that the person unreasonably killed the bear or any other wild animal, which basically means the officer does not think the person was really in danger, then the person who killed the animal could be criminally charged with a misdemeanor for doing so with no permit.

It is best to check with a DNR office and to request a permit before attempting to address or eliminate any nuisance animals, including those that are bothering livestock and/or crops. If you want to know more about the use of deadly force against animals in Michigan, speak with a DNR officer and, contact a skilled gun attorney that can advise you of your rights.