The legal responsibilities of owning a pet
The State of Michigan requires ALL dogs over 4 months to be current with a rabies vaccine and to have a Michigan dog license. There are no laws in Michigan regarding cat ownership. However, abuse and neglect of any domestic animal is subject to criminal prosecution.
How is pet ownership determined?
By law, you are considered the owner of a pet if you have possessed, housed and cared for, or been in charge of a pet’s care for more than 7 days. This does not apply to people caring for, or attempting to care for wild or feral animals.
Wild or feral animals are not "owned" by the caretaker.
What is considered animal cruelty?
At minimum, every animal should be provided with:
- Food, water and shelter, available at all times if the animal is kept outside.
- If the dog is tied outside, the tie must be at least three times the length of the dog from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.
- Every animal must have appropriate veterinary care.
Michigan Criminal Code 750.50 outlines crimes against animals. Listed are some key, simplified points of the code. The below is for educational purposes only:
- "Adequate care" means the sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of health.
- "Neglect" means to fail to sufficiently and properly care for an animal to the extent that the animal's health is jeopardized.
- "Sanitary Conditions" means space free from health hazards including excessive animal waste, overcrowding of animals, or other conditions that endanger the animal's health.
- "Shelter" means adequate protection from the elements and weather conditions suitable for the age, species, and physical condition of the animal so as to maintain the animal in a state of good health. Shelter for livestock, includes structures or natural features such as trees or topography. Shelter, for a dog, includes a doghouse that is an enclosed structure with a roof and of appropriate dimensions for the breed and size of the dog. The doghouse shall have dry bedding when the temperature is or is predicted to drop below freezing.
- "State of good health" means freedom from disease and illness and in a condition of proper body weight and temperature for the age and species of the animal.
- "Water" means water that is suitable for the age and species of animal that is made regularly available.
What happens if the law is violated?
The person can be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by one or more of the following; a fine, imprisonment, or community service and may be ordered to pay the costs of prosecution.