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Pennsylvania Dog Law-The Dangerous Dog Statute

Under Pennsylvania law, a dog bite or dog attack victim can move to have the dog declared dangerous and the owner of the dog guilty of the summary offense of harboring a dangerous dog. Once a dog is declared dangerous, the owner is obligated to follow stringent requirements in registering, keeping and caring for the dog.

3 P.S. Section 459-502-A specifies that a person who has been attacked by a dog without provocation or a person whose domestic animal (i.e., livestock) has been attacked or killed without provocation by a dog, may file a complaint before a local magisterial district judge, charging the owner with the summary offense of harboring a dangerous dog.

Each county in Pennsylvania has multiple magisterial district judges. For example, Montgomery County has approximately 30 magisterial district judges. In Philadelphia County, the complaint would be filed with the Municipal Court.

In order to have a dog declared dangerous and the owner guilty of harboring a dangerous dog, the district judge must find beyond a reasonable doubt, the following:

(1) the dog engaged in one of the following acts:
-inflicted severe injury on a human without provocation;
-killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal without provocation;
-attacked a human without provocation;
-was used in the commission of a crime.


(2) the dog has either:
-a history of attacking humans or domestic animals without provocation
-a propensity to attack humans or domestic animals without provocation as proved by the single incident complained of.

In other words, the injured victim must show 1) the dog caused significant injury to a human or livestock or killed livestock without provocation or was used in a crime AND 2) the dog either has a history or characteristic of such attacks. The single incident involving the complainant or injured victim may be enough. Proving a prior attack is not required under the statute.

After the judge finds the dog dangerous, a record of the owner's conviction of harboring a dangerous dog is sent to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and the owner must pay a minimum of a $200 fine.

Subsequently, the dog owner must register the dog every year and pay the minimum $25 annual registration fee. There are other miscellaneous requirements. The owner must confine the dog in a proper enclosure, put up warning signs, keep the dog muzzled and leashed when outside the enclosure, spay/neuter the dog, microchip the dog, maintain a minimum of $50,000 of liability insurance coverage for any future injuries and the dog owner must also notify the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement of any important updates involving the dog. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, contact the White and Williams team, experienced dog attack and personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. We serve accident victims in all areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 1-877-944-8396

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