Do You Have A Case if You Were Bitten by a Dog in Pennsylvania?

Suffering an attack from a dog can be both a traumatizing event and cause you serious physical injuries requiring extensive medical treatment.  Whether you have a dog bite case if you were bitten by a dog in Pennsylvania depends on various factors such as: if the dog owner did not keep the dog properly confined to the dog owner’s property, if the dog had attacked anyone before, whether you were a trespasser on the dog owner’s property, and whether there was any comparative fault on your part that lead to the dog attack.


2 Major Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws

1.) P.S. § 459-305

There are two statutes in Pennsylvania that could make a dog owner liable for injuries from a dog bite or dog attack.  The first is 3 P.S. § 459-305. Confinement and housing of dogs not part of a kennel.  This statute prohibits an owner of any dog from failing to keep the dog at all times either: “(1) confined within the premises of the owner; (2) firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or (3) under the reasonable control of some person.”  Therefore, if a dog owner is letting their dog run freely outside of their home or beyond their property limits, and that dog attacks you unprovoked, the dog owner could be liable for the injuries the dog caused you.  Another example where a dog owner could be held liable under this statute is if the homeowner leaves their door open, the dog is not secured in its home, and the dog is free to run out of the home to attack you unprovoked. 

Just because you have proven the elements of 3 P.S. § 459-305 does not mean you can automatically recover monetarily for your injuries from the dog attack.  You must also show that the violation of this statute was a substantial factor in causing your injuries.  For example, a dog owner can attempt to show that their dog escaped despite the exercise of due care on their part to make sure the dog was not roaming freely.  Normally it will be for a jury to decide if the dog owner was using proper care to make sure their dog was not roaming freely when it attacked.


2.) P.S. § 459-502-A

The second statute is 3 P.S. § 459-502-A Court proceedings, certificate of registration and disposition.  Under this statute, “Any person who has been attacked by one or more dogs … may file a complaint before a magisterial district judge, charging the owner or keeper of the a dog with harboring a dangerous dog. The owner or keeper of the dog shall be guilty of the summary offense of harboring a dangerous dog if the magisterial district judge finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the following elements of the offense have been proven:

 1.) The dog has done any of the following:

  •  Inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property.
  •  Killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal, dog or cat without provocation while off the owner’s property.
  • Attacked a human being without provocation.
  • Been used in the commission of a crime.


2.) The dog has either or both of the following:

  • A history of attacking human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats without provocation.
  •  A propensity to attack human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats without provocation. A propensity to attack may be proven by a single incident of the conduct described in any of the above.


(3) The defendant is the owner or keeper of the dog.


Therefore, under this statute if you can prove the dog had attacked a human before without provocation or inflicted severe injury on another domestic animal while off its property, the dog owner may be liable for you dog bite injuries if their dog attacked you – in this case, would the dog be put to sleep for attacking someone? However even if there is no history of past attacks, this does not mean the dog gets a free bite on you.  The circumstances of the dog attacking and biting you can be used as evidence to show the dog had a propensity to attack people which the dog owner should have known about.  Evidence that the dog regularly chased after pedestrians – even if it did not ultimately attack them – can be helpful in this scenario also.  A history of attacks or propensity to attack can be proven through statements of other residents in the neighborhood about the dog, or police reports of prior complaints about the dog.


Should You Get A Dog Attack Lawyer in Pennsylvania?

The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling dog bite and dog attack cases in Pennsylvania.  If you suffered a dog attack in Pennsylvania, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.


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