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New law fines owners of 'dangerous dogs'

Officials from Maine's Animal Welfare Program say a law taking effect on August 1 will cost owners of dogs that are labeled as "dangerous" or a "nuisance." (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Officials from Maine's Animal Welfare Program say a law taking effect on August 1 will cost owners of dogs that are labeled as "dangerous" or a "nuisance."

The law, which is a part of the "Act to Strengthen the Law Regarding Dangerous Dogs," states that owners of dangerous dogs will now pay a $100 annual license fee, and owners of nuisance dogs will pay a $30 annual license fee.

The law states that anyone "assaulted or threatened with imminent bodily injury by a dog," as well as if their pets are assaulted or threatened, can make a written complaint to their local law enforcement that the dog in question is dangerous.

The law says an investigation will take place, and if the information is accurate, the new label will be place on the dog.

The law states dogs labeled as "dangerous" will have to wear a tag that indicates them to be dangerous, and the owner will have to pay a higher license fee.

The law also states that depending on the severity of the crime, the dog could be put down.

Some dog owners say the law is a good idea.

"Most people will not admit that their dog is dangerous, so therefore you have to have some kind of authority that can pass judgement," dog owner Ted Roselund said.

Others say they're not fully convinced.

"The real problem that I have with this is that a neighbor, or somebody who has a grudge, could simply declare that they feel endangered by a dog, and then that will start a whole investigation," Portland dog trainer David Merritt said.

State officials say every case will be investigated, but Merritt says he's not convinced some dogs will be wrongfully labeled, especially breeds that are typically discriminated against.

"Every dog is different, and there are no generalizations that apply to any breed. People have those perceptions, and they're generally not true," Merritt said.

Others say that people who don't own or understand dogs could create problems by misunderstanding something as simple as a dog barking.

"Not everyone is a dog person, not everyone likes dogs, and just their fear alone can cause a dog to react," South Portland dog owner Ruth Brock said.

She says her dog has been bitten before, and that she understands why the law is taking effect, but says more needs to be done to protect good dogs.

"I think people need to be careful with the investigations... I'm sure other people have experienced the same thing as me, and I just want my dog to be safe," Brock said.

State officials say they're still working out when offenders will have to pay the new fee, saying that the new licensing period doesn't start until October.

To read the full law, click here.

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