Pennsylvania Dog Law

Confinement of Dogs Statute

Pennsylvania's Dog Law requires owners and keepers to have reasonable control over their dogs at all times. The law also requires owners to confine their dogs on their premises, and restrain their dogs with a collar, chain, or other device to prevent straying. Dog bite victims who prove that a dog owner violated Pennsylvania's confinement statute, may recover under a theory of negligence per se.

Common Law Liability

Pennsylvania law states that an owner is liable for all damages when a person is severely attacked, or if the person is attacked and the dog previously has been considered dangerous. Victims can recover full compensation if the dog owner was negligent or fails to comply with the state dog laws. If the dog hasn't bitten before, two things can happen. If the victim's injuries are severe (physical injury that results in broken bones, disfiguring lacerations, or injury that requires cosmetic surgery), he or she can make a claim against the dog owner for medical expenses, as well as other losses and legal damages. A victim not severely injured can make a dog claim for medical expenses.

Dangerous Dog Statute

The Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"

A "dangerous dog" is:

(1) a dog that has done one or more of the following:

  • a dog that has inflicted severe injury on a person without provocation. "Severe injury" is any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.
  • a dog that has killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal, without provocation, while off the owner's property.
  • a dog that has attacked a person without provocation;
  • a dog that has been used in the commission of a crime.

(2) a dog that has either or both of the following:

  • a history of attacking people and/or domestic animals without provocation;
  • a propensity to attack people and/or domestic animals without provocation. A propensity to attack can be proven by a single incident of the conduct described in (1), above.

Legal Responsibilities of Owners With Dangerous Dog Owners

  • Dog owners must register their dogs as dangerous.
  • Dangerous dog owners must maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000 insuring the owner for any personal injuries inflicted by the dangerous dog.
  • A dangerous dog owner must maintain a proper enclosure to confine the dog. The owner must also post the premises with a clearly visible warning sign that there is a dangerous dog on the property, and conspicuously display a sign with a warning symbol that informs children of the presence of a dangerous dog.
  • When the dangerous dog is outside of its owner's house or outside of its enclosure, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under the physical restraint of a responsible person.
  • Dangerous dog owners must notify the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, the State Dog Warden, and the local police department if the dangerous dog is on the loose, is unconfined, has attacked another animal, has attacked a person, has died, or has been sold or given away. If the dangerous dog was sold or given away, the owner must provide the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and the State Dog Warden with the name, address, and telephone number of the new owner.

Liability of Owners with Dangerous Dogs

  • If a dangerous dog, through the intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct of its owner, attacks a person or domestic animal, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, and faces up to two years in prison.
  • If a dangerous dog, through the intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct of its owner, aggressively attacks and causes severe injury or death of a person, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor in the first degree, and faces up to five years in prison.
  • If a dangerous dog is owned by a minor, the minor's parent or guardian will be liable for injuries and property damage caused by an unprovoked attack.

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