What Are My Responsibilities as a Dog Owner?

If you have a dog, it’s important that you understand the tenets of responsible dog ownership in Downingtown, PA. If your dog is deemed dangerous, you might be liable for any injuries or property damage they cause. Here’s an overview of dog owner responsibilities when you live in Pennsylvania.

Controlling your dog

Pennsylvania Dog Law, 3 P.S. Section 459-305 codifies rules for controlling and confining your dog. Your dog must be controlled at all times, either by keeping them indoors (“in the premises of the owner”), secured by a collar and chain so it can’t leave your property or under the “reasonable control” of a person, including during lawful hunting, field training or other expeditions.

In other words, you can’t let Fluffy run around the neighborhood at will, even if you’re positive they’re the best-behaved, friendliest dog ever. Even if they are, dogs are still animals and can be triggered unexpectedly. Your sweet Fluffy might perceive children, other animals or people as a threat and attack them. If that happens and you’ve failed to control your dog as provided above, you could be liable for the victim’s medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Harboring a dangerous dog

Some dogs, on the other hand, are deemed dangerous. Pennsylvania Dog Law, 3 P.S. Section 459-502 A classifies dangerous dogs as those who “inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation” either on public or private property, those who inflicted severe injury or killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property, those who attacked a human without provocation and those who were used in commission of a crime.

Pennsylvania courts have also defined what constitutes a dangerous dog. Groner v. Hedrick states that “dangerous” means “a propensity or tendency of an animal to do any act that might endanger the safety of the person and property of others in a given situation.” Courts do not distinguish between dogs who are purposely threatening or injurious versus those who are just playful but still cause harm anyway.

Not only are Pennsylvania dog owners liable for dog bite injuries, they may be criminally charged if their dog is considered dangerous under the above standards. While civil charges expose you to significant financial liability, criminal charges often mean jail time in addition to fines.

What to do if you’re a dog owner

If you own a dog in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you keep your dog on a leash at all times—at least when you’re outside the confines of your home. If you let your dog run around in your backyard, it’s important that they cannot escape and potentially cause harm to others.

If you believe that your dog would be considered “dangerous” under the law, contact an attorney to see what you should do next. Dog owner responsibility is taken very seriously in Downingtown, PA, and it’s in your best interest to call the experts at Rosato Law Offices if you’re in need of assistance.