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Pennsylvania Dog Attack and Dog Bite Law--An Overview

Pennsylvania's Dog Law has been around for years. Until recently, Pennsylvania actually adopted what became known as the "one free bite" rule. Under this rule, a dog owner was not liable to the first victim that his or her dog attacked. In other words, dog owners were only liable if the dog had previously attacked a victim. The theory behind this rule was that a dog owner could not be charged with knowledge or "notice" of the dog's viciousness unless the dog had previously attacked and bit someone without provocation.

The Dog Law underwent several revisions. Under the 1996 revision, dog owners could be criminally charged in cases of both unprovoked dog attacks which ended in serious injuries and unprovoked attacks where there was a clear history of prior viciousness. But the 1996 change did not clearly eliminate the "one free bite" rule. Courts interpreted the 1996 law so that in unprovoked attacks with serious injuries, the victim did not have to prove prior viciousness. In cases without serious injury, the victim did.

As a result of the confusion the 1996 revision created, the Dog Law was revised again in 2008. Now, a dog owner can be held liable for a first and single attack, so long as the dog showed the requisite level of viciousness. This means that in a first and single attack, so long as the dog was vicious, the victim does not have to prove prior viciousness. Recent courts have held that the facts and circumstances surrounding the first and single attack can be sufficient to prove viciousness. Facts such as how the dog attacked and whether the dog attacked multiple people are important.


Pennsylvania's Dog Law includes leash laws and a licensing requirement. Violation of the leash law can result in the owner's liability if failure to follow the leash law led to the attack. If failure to leash the dog was unexcused, the owner can be held liable.

It is important to note that Pennsylvania has a two year Statute of Limitations for negligence cases, including dog attack and dog bite cases. A lawsuit must be filed within two years of the attack. If the victim is a minor, the suit must be filed within two years of the victim's eighteenth birthday.


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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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