August 2, 2022

Does Pennsylvania Have Leash Laws?

Scared dog

Owning a dog can be a fulfilling and joyful experience, but being a pet owner is a full-time responsibility that some people are not prepared for. Controlling your dog on a leash, whether in public areas or outside on your property, is one such responsibility — one which could help prevent any dog bite injuries to yourself or others. To protect people from dog bite injuries, many states have implemented leash laws. Dog owners who break these leash laws may be held liable for a victim’s medical bills and other expenses.

Being bitten by a dog can be a frightening and traumatizing experience. This explains why many states, including Pennsylvania, have dog bite laws and leash laws that protect the victim. Unfortunately, these laws can seem ambiguous. This leaves many cities in the state enacting their own, more specific dog bite laws.

State law in Pennsylvania requires that dogs be confined to their property, either by a fence or a leash, and they must be under “reasonable control.” A dog must be controlled in public areas, as it is considered unlawful for an owner to allow the dog to wander away. Should the dog injure or cause any harm or property damage outside of their owner’s control or the confines of their property, then the owner may be held responsible. Dogs used for hunting in Pennsylvania have some exceptions, but still must always be controlled by their owner.

Pennsylvania’s Dog Bite Laws

There are several different factors that help determine if a dog owner is liable for injuring someone, such as:

  • Provocation: This asks the question if the injured victim provoked the dog to attack in anyway and can be used as a defense for a dog owner.
  • Trespassing: If the injured person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or was there illegally at the time of the injury, then the dog owner may not be found liable.
  • Injury severity: State laws classifies dog bites on the severity of the bite. When the dog has shown no history of aggression or bites, then the severity of the bite comes into question. A severe dog bite is considered a bite that results in broken bones or disfigurement that requires stitches or surgery. With a severe dog bite, a victim may be able to recoup losses such as medical costs, legal costs, pain and suffering, or lost wages. Non-severe dog bite victims may only be able to recoup medical costs in most cases.
  • Dog’s history: A dog’s history of violence or aggression plays a major role in dog bite injuries. If the dog does have a questionable history, such as having bitten someone or another animal before, then it must be registered with the state of Pennsylvania and must be restrained by leash or chain and under the restraint of a responsible person.
  • Off-leash areas: There are certain places where a non-dangerous dog can be without a leash throughout the state, such as local dog parks. Some trails have exceptions as well.

Pennsylvania follows a “strict liability” law when it comes to dog bites. If your dog bites another person or animal, whether they were on or off leash, the dog owner will be held liable for the injury if the injuries were severe, or the dog had been registered as dangerous. In this scenario, the injured victim may be able to recover full damages from the owner.

Finally, it should be noted that severity of injury also includes other injuries that may have been sustained during the event, not just the bite itself. For example, if the dog jumped onto the person and the victim fell over and bumped their head and got a concussion. This still would fall under dog bite laws.

Dog Bite Injuries and Civil Liability

There are a few instances when a dog owner could be held liable in a civil liability lawsuit:

  • Dog-bite statutes: Pennsylvania, like most states, have a “strict-liability” law that makes dog owners liable should their dog bite or attack a person or another animal, regardless of whether the owner was negligent or considering a dog’s history.
  • One-bite rule”: Instead of a “strict liability” law, some states implement a “one-bite” law in which a dog owner could be held liable for a bite if they knew or should have known their dog was likely to injure someone.
  • Negligence: If the injured victim can prove that their injury was caused by the dog owner’s negligence, such as leaving a gate open or disobeying a local leash law, then the injured party can file a civil lawsuit.

Dog Bite Injuries and Criminal Liability

It is possible for a dog owner to face criminal charges should their dog injure another person. Many states or their counties require dog owners to register their dogs after they exhibit dangerous behavior, and impose further restrictions on the animal going forward, such as taking special precautions or requiring a muzzle and leash in all public settings. If the dog attacks a person after this point, the dog owner may face criminal charges, especially if they ignore the restrictions.

Additionally, there are states where a dog owner would face criminal charges in situations where the dog attack was serious or fatal. A dog owner could face criminal charges if the dog attacks someone but was negligent in ignoring the risk.

What to Do Following a Dog Bite?

If you have been bitten by a dog, regardless of if you know the owner or not, there are some steps you must take immediately:

  • Get the owner’s contact information: Gather the names and contact information of the dog owner. You will also want to get the insurance company information if the owner has liability coverage. You should do this even if the injury seems minor, as infection could set in hours or days later.
  • Witnesses: You should get the contact information of any witnesses involved, particularly if there is a disagreement of what happened.
  • Gather evidence: Try to get a picture of the dog if possible, your injuries, and the scene itself, like if the dog came through a fence or through an alleyway.
  • Get medical attention: Even if the injury does not appear serious, you should seek medical attention immediately because it might get worse. Keep the records of your visit and any copies of bills or treatments.
  • Report to authorities: If you do not know who owns the dog, you should then report the incident to the police or the animal control authorities, who may know if the dog was rabid or if the dog has a history of attacks.
  • Contact the insurance company: If you need to hold the owner responsible for your injuries, know that you may need to file a claim with owner’s insurance company or file a lawsuit in court against the owner.

Montgomery County Dog Bite Lawyer at Anthony C Gagliano III, P.C. Help Dog Bite Victims Receive Compensation for Their Injuries

Being bitten by a dog can certainly be a traumatic experience, and you may be wondering how to have your injuries covered. Our experienced Montgomery County dog bite lawyer at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. can help you right away. Call us today at 267-861-7100 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. With offices located in Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve all communities of Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Chester County, and Norristown.