There are many laws on the books designed to deal with particular public safety issues, but in practice, they often fail to do what they were intended to accomplish. One such law was passed in 2009 by the Pennsylvania legislature to deal with dangerous dogs who inflict serious injuries on its victims, many of whom are children or the elderly.
Under the 2009 revision to Pennsylvania dog bite law, if a person who has been attacked by a dog or whose cat or dog has been killed or injured by another dog without provocation, a local police officer or a state dog warden may file a complaint in district court seeking to have the dog’s owner adjudged a keeper of a dangerous dog. This determination requires the owner to do the following:
- Maintain at least $50,000 of liability insurance
- Keep the animal housed in a proper enclosure
- Post a clearly visible warning sign that a dangerous animal is on the property
- Pay a $500 annual registration or license fee
The Pennsylvania dog bite law also authorizes state officials to conduct inspections to see if the animal is in a proper enclosure but it is not mandated. Consequently, there has been lax enforcement of this essential provision.
Dog Law Requirements Rarely Enforced
As often occurs when new regulations are promulgated and there are few resources to fund it, enforcement of these measures is neglected. A recent article in the Tribune-Democrat reported that an audit found that only a quarter of owners of the registered dangerous dog owners have obtained the required yearly license. More glaring is that despite the large number of dog bites that occur yearly in Pennsylvania, only 65 dogs are on the state’s dangerous dog list. The state’s dog wardens investigated 1,100 dog attack cases last year but this does not include those investigated and not reported by local law enforcement, who are not required to report these incidents to the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
Further, it was found that few if any complaints are ever made to the district courts, which must find the dog dangerous before the owner must comply with the law’s registration and other requirements.
Few dog bite injury cases ever get to court and are settled by insurance or resolved by the dog warden or local police without going to court. Those officials who can file complaints in court apparently do not feel the need to do so and would rather dispense with the time and expense of having to prove the dangerous tendencies of a dog.
Jon Ostroff Responds to the Lax Adherence to Pennsylvania Dog Bite Law
When such laws are ignored and the state neglects to enforce them, the public is endangered. Jon Ostroff, a Pennsylvania attorney who routinely handles dog bite cases, states that the owners of these dogs are neglecting their obligation to the public to protect them from dangerous animals by not properly training and monitoring their dogs to minimize the risk of an attack:
According to Mr. Ostroff,
“I own two dogs and they are part of my family. Because I am a dog owner, I accept full responsibility for training and controlling my dogs at all times. Failing to train, monitor and control dogs is not only cruel to that dog, but creates a preventable danger to the public. Properly trained and monitored dogs are not a threat to the public. In fact, they bring my family and friends nothing but joy.
Dog owners who don’t care about protecting their guests and the general public enough to properly train and care for their dogs are the real public threat!
When someone chooses to own any dog, especially one that is part of a “dangerous breed,” they are accepting the important responsibility of protecting their guests and the public from being attacked and injured by their dog. The state of Pennsylvania enacted a stronger dog law in 2009 for a reason. However, as the Tribune-Democrat article suggested, the enforcement of this law has been weak.
Regardless of any of our dog laws in Pennsylvania, the simple truth is that the owner of a dog or dogs is in the best position to protect our citizens from being injured by that dog. It is their fault, and their legal responsibility, if they fail to control their dog at all times and their dog injures another person. If the owners of dangerous dogs fail to fulfill their responsibilities under the revised 2009 dog law, their fault is even greater.
When I have represented clients who have been injured by dangerous dogs, they are entitled to be paid for all the harm and losses they have suffered. If along with the responsibilities that come with owning and always controlling a dangerous dog its owner also ignores the law, in my experience, this kind of carelessness will increase the financial responsibility they have to the victim attacked by this dog.”
Call Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers
Contact the Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers offices if you or a loved one has been attacked and injured by a dog. Our office fully investigates all incidents and has been successful in obtaining the compensation that our clients deserve from the lack of responsible dog ownership that causes many dog attacks. We offer a free consultation and assessment of your case and do not get paid from your case until you get paid.