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Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dog Bites - What Are Your Rights When Bitten?

Almost everyone agrees that owning a pet can be a wonderful thing—pets provide companionship, and can teach young people responsibility…but irresponsible pet owners can be frustrating.  Usually the frustration is limited to small nuisances, like dogs that bark all day or pet owners who don’t clean up after their pets.  But sometimes this irresponsibility can be dangerous, like when people keep dogs that bite.  So what should you do if receive a dog bite injury from someone else’s pet?

You Have the Right to Defend Yourself and Family

First of all, you should know that Pennsylvania law allows you to defend yourself, your family, and your pets against an attacking dog.  If a dog is chasing or attacking you or someone else, or is injuring you, someone else, or your pet, you have the right to defend yourself, even if that means the attacking dog is injured or even killed.  You won’t be responsible for paying for any damages to the attacking dog.

You Have the Right to File a Complaint

If you’ve been attacked by a dog, or if a dog has attacked your pet, Pennsylvania law allows you to file a complaint with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement or in the magisterial district court.  This will cause an investigation to be opened, and an animal control or police officer will be assigned to the investigation.  If the dog bit a person, it must be confined during the investigation.  It is up to the investigating officer whether the dog is confined on the owner’s property, in an approved kennel, or somewhere else.

While the dog is confined, they will examine it to check for rabies and other conditions that would be important to know about.  The investigating officer will notify you of the results of these examinations.  The investigating officer will make an inquiry into any expenses you have had for medical treatment as a result of the dog’s bite or attack; the dog’s owner and/or keeper will be responsible for reimbursing you for those costs.

You Have the Right to Have the Judge Declare the Dog Dangerous

You can also ask the judge to declare the dog to be a “dangerous dog,” and find the owner guilty of “harboring a dangerous dog.”  For the dog to be a dangerous dog, it must have done any of the following:

  1. Severely injured a person without provocation
  2. Killed or injured your pet without provocation while the dog was off the owner’s property
  3. Attacked a person without provocation
  4. Been used in committing a crime

Additionally, the dog has to have either a history or a “propensity” for attacking without provocation.  If you’re thinking of filing a complaint, you should speak with an attorney for assistance.

If the judge finds the above conditions are true and declares the dog to be a dangerous dog, the owner will be required to register the dog as a dangerous dog with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.  This registration costs $500 and must be updated every year.  Additionally, there is a list of requirements the owner must meet to keep their dangerous dog license:

  • The dog must be kept confined in a place that children can’t get in and the dog can’t get out.  
  • If the dog will be kept outside, there must be a top on the dog’s enclosure—it can’t just be fenced in, although fences must go at least two feet into the ground to prevent the dog from tunneling out.  
  • If a dangerous dog is going for walks outside of its enclosure, it must be leashed and muzzled at all times.
  • The owner must put up signs clearly indicating there is a dangerous dog on the property.
  • The dog must be spayed or neutered.
  • The dog must be microchipped.
  • The owner must pay restitution for medical costs, as indicated above, and anything else the court orders.
  • The owner must get an insurance policy that covers damages up to $50,000 caused by their dog.
  • The owner must inform the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement within 24 hours if their dog gets out or attacks someone else or their pet.

You Have the Right to Legal Counsel

If you, your family, or your pet has been attacked by a dog, please get any necessary medical treatment, then schedule a consult with the Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Louis P. Lombardi II & Associates today.


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