Understanding the elements of dog bites in Pennsylvania

When people suffer injuries due to a dog bite or attack, the dog’s owner may be held liable for the resulting damages.

Many people in the Greater Philadelphia area, and throughout the U.S., keep dogs as pets, as service animals, or for personal or property protection. While most K-9s are loving companions, there are situations when they attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people across the U.S. suffer about 4.5 million dog bites each year. Those who fall victim to dog attacks often sustain serious injuries, which may require medical attention, and, as a result, choose to take legal action.

Classification of a dangerous dog

In the state of Pennsylvania, a judge may deem a dog dangerous if it has attacked, caused severe injury or killed a person or domestic animal. Such attacks must occur without provocation and cannot take place on the dog owner’s property. As of 2010, PennLive reported that there were 335 dogs on the state’s dangerous dogs list.

Once a dog is deemed dangerous, the dog’s owner must comply with the following requirements in order to keep their animals:

• Register the dog by paying $500 to the state’s Department of Agriculture

• Neuter or spay the dog

• Keep the dog enclosed

• Post a warning sign

• Purchase a $50,000 liability insurance policy or post bond

Furthermore, dangerous dogs must be leashed and muzzled if they are taken outside. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in criminal and civil liabilities for the dog’s owner.

Dog confinement requirements

Under Pennsylvania state law, dog owners are required to keep their pets confined, or under their control, at all times. Therefore, K-9s must be securely kept inside people’s homes, or on a collar and chain that prohibits them from leaving the yard. When pet owners are engaged in certain activities, such as lawful hunting or field training, they must maintain reasonable control of their dogs. Failure to do so could be considered negligence on their parts.

Statute of limitations

People who suffer serious injuries as a result of dog bites do not have an infinite amount of time to take legal action. Like other personal injury cases in the state, there is a statute of limitations for dog bite claims. Pennsylvania state law stipulates that action in such cases must be taken within two years of when the dog attack occurred.

Types of damages

Depending on the severity of the injuries they have suffered and the dog’s history, people who sustain injuries due to dog bites and attacks may be able to seek compensation for the real losses or damages that they suffer as a result of their injuries. This includes recompense for past and future medical expenses. Furthermore, dog bite victims may be able to obtain reparations for the wages they lose while they are off of work recovering from their injuries. In the event the dog attack renders them partially or permanently disabled, they may also receive compensation for the income they may lose as a result.

Consulting with an attorney

When people in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, are bitten or attacked by dogs, they often require medical treatment and care. In some cases, they may also need to take time off of work to recover. As a result, dog bite victims may incur undue expenses. Since the dog’s owner may be held liable for the resulting damages, however, it may benefit those who have experienced such situations to seek legal guidance. An attorney may help them to understand their rights, as well as their options for seeking financial compensation.