Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

Being bitten by a dog is a frightening experience. A dog bite can leave a victim physically harmed and emotionally traumatized. Thankfully, a person who has suffered a dog bite can pursue a claim to recover damages for their injuries. There are differences in how each state handles a dog owner's liability. Many states impose strict liability on pet owners, but other states use the "one bite rule", which holds dog owners liable if they knew or should have known that their pet was dangerous.

Pennsylvania uses strict liability law, but only when it comes to medical costs. This means that the owner is liable for all the victim's medical expenses without the victim showing that the owner was negligent. However, the law differs when it comes to damages other than medical bills.

If a victim can show that the dog owner/keeper was negligent then they may be able to receive other damages, including lost wages and other losses. For instance, if "Snuggles" is registered as a "dangerous dog" on the state registry and her owner didn't take measures to adequately restrain her, then the owner may have to compensate the bite victim for their medical expenses and additional damages.

Types of Dog Bite Victims

Pennsylvania categorizes dog bite victims based on their injuries. There are two types: Victims who are severely injured and victims who are not severely injured. A severe injury is any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery. This distinction makes a big difference in recovering damages.

Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws at a Glance

If you've been on the receiving end of a dog bite or it was your dog that bit someone else, the last thing you want to do is spend time trying to research dog bite laws. Of course it's always best to go the the primary source -- a state's statutes -- but they're often written in legalese and can take time to unpack. That's why we've prepared the following plain language summary of Pennsylvania's dog bite laws, with links to the statutes, to help guide your research.

Statutes

Pennsylvania Statutes Title 3 P.S. Agriculture Section 459-101 "Dog Law":

  • Section 459-502 (dog bites; detention and isolation of dogs)
  • Section 459-502A (dangerous dog statute)
  • Section 506-A (dangerous dog registry)

Damages

 

 

Severe Injury

If a dog bite victim is severely injured, they can make a claim for all damages, including the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain

Non-severe Injury

If a dog bite victim is not severely injured, they can make a claim for medical damages only.

Defenses

If the dog owner can show that the victim provoked the dog, then the owner may be able to avoid liability.

If the person who was bitten committed a "willful trespass" when the bite occurred, then the owner may not be liable.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for all Pennsylvania personal injury cases (including dog bite claims) is 2 years.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws: Related Resources

Questions about Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws? Contact a Lawyer

Pennsylvania's dog bite laws are complex. If you were bitten by a dog and you need to understand how the law will impact your claim, or if your dog bit someone else and you're concerned about your liability, an attorney can provide you with the answers you're seeking. Get in touch with a local Pennsylvania lawyer right away.

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