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I live in Maine and have a multi-unit home with two units — a first-floor unit and second-floor unit — that I rent out. The two units share the same foyer, and the tenants do not know each other well.

The tenant on the first floor recently acquired an adult male pit bull, which I have so far permitted under the lease agreement. The dog is not under the owner's vocal command, so by Maine law the owner must keep the dog on a leash when not on property. However, he often has the dog off of a leash when he is outside of his apartment — for example in the foyer, on the porch, and around the yard — and the other tenant has expressed concerns about safety, for instance when she is exiting her second-floor apartment through the foyer.

Does Maine state law or court precedent require that the dog be leashed on the rental property? This information would be helpful for determining how I should approach the situation.

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The clostest to such a state law, which would be under part 9 of title 7, is §3911, which forbids any dog from being "at large". That term is defined as "off the premises of the owner and not under the control of any person whose personal presence and attention would reasonably control the conduct of the animal". The term "premise" is not defined in a general manner in title 7, though in the definition of "dangerous dog" and "nuisance dog", it is defined as "the residence or residences, including buildings and land and motor vehicles, belonging to the owner or keeper of the dog or wolf hybrid" (the primary question being whether "the land" is part of "the premise"). In light of the mixed definition of "premise" in Maine law and given the extant evidence of legislative intent in title 7, the courts would conclude that "in the yard" is being "on the premise". In other words, the dog is not "at large". Chapter 727 contains separate provisions for a court determination that a dog is "dangerous" or "a nuisance", which is triggered by assault or threaten of bodily injury by a dog.

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  • Informative answer, thanks. From Ch. 727 it sounds as though the second-floor tenant's primary legal option is to "may make written complaint to the sheriff, local law enforcement officer or animal control officer that the dog is a dangerous dog or a nuisance dog" if "threatened with bodily injury by [the] dog." Is this correct?
    – SapereAude
    May 2, 2023 at 5:07
  • And on my end, if the second-floor tenant is bitten or attacked by the dog, am I legally liable in any sense?
    – SapereAude
    May 2, 2023 at 5:12
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    Per §3961, the dog owner is liable, not the property owner of the dog's owner. If you have actual knowledge that the dog is dangerous, where you could prevent the person from having the dog (put in and enforce a no-pets clause in the next lease) then you might be found liable for allowing the harm. Another tenant or passer-by could file a complaint, if actually threatened.
    – user6726
    May 2, 2023 at 13:45

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