Dog Bites and Dog Owner Liability in Pennsylvania


There are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in the U.S. each year. Approximately 71 percent of bites occur to the extremities, including arms, legs, hands, and feet. With this, some two-thirds of bites occur on or near the victim’s property, and most victims know the dog, according to the American Humane Association. In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten. Dog bites can result in an immense amount of pain near the injury, tissue and nerves and damages, and infection. And in many cases, the injuries can even prove to be fatal.

Pennsylvania Dog Laws

If you have been bitten by a dog, Pennsylvania law allows you to recover compensation for your injuries. Chapter 8 of the Pennsylvania Statute provides that it shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep their dog at all times: (i) confined within the premises belonging to the owner; (ii) firmly secured by use of a leash, chain, or similar device, or (iii) under the reasonable control of some person.

Some states require the plaintiff to show that the defendant dog owner was aware of the dog’s viciousness, or that the owner was negligent in confining the dog. However, Pennsylvania does not require such a standard. The statute follows the theory of strict liability in regards to unconfined dogs biting people, or even other dogs. The theory of strict liability does not require the plaintiff to prove intent or lack of reasonable care, motive, or good faith. Rather, the plaintiff must show the defendant dog owner violated the statute at all.

Preventing Dogs Bites

The first time a dog bites a person, an investigation will be conducted to determine whether the dog shall be deemed “dangerous.” According to the statute, it is unlawful for an owner to permit a “dangerous” dog to be outside without a muzzle and restrained by a substantial chain or leash. In some cases, the dog may be put to sleep. Following an attack, the dog owner is subject to criminal liability as well.

Dog bites cause severe injuries. If you have been attacked by a dog, it is important to file a report with animal control so that your incident can be documented. Also, seek all necessary medical care and attention. If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to a dog bite, you may have grounds to recover damages. Contact our experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys to discuss Pennsylvania dog laws, and your ability to bring a claim. Pick up the phone and call (215) 481-9979 to begin.

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