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Could owning a dangerous dog lead to a premises liability claim?

Whether it is a dog, cat, bird, lizard or fish, owning a pet comes with responsibilities. For dog owners in Pennsylvania, it is not only imperative that they understand the local ordinances regarding dogs, but also state laws that are applicable to dog owners. Pennsylvania's "dog law" details the requirements for keeping a dog on personal property and what should occur if it is determined a dog is dangerous.

A section of the state's dog law states that harboring a dangerous dog is an offense, and a dog owner could face charges if their dog caused severe injury to a person without provocation, killed or seriously injured a domestic animal without provocation off of the owner's property, attacked a person without provocation or was used in the commission of a crime.

If a dog is deemed "dangerous" under the law, the owner must register the dog within 30 days of notification, and the property where the dog is kept must have a proper enclosure with a warning sign. In addition, the dog must be micro-chipped, spayed or neutered and the dog owner must get liability insurance of at least $50,000. Finally, if a dangerous dog is outside of its enclosure, it must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial leash that is controlled by a responsible person.

If a dog owner acts intentionally, recklessly or negligently and a dog attack occurs, the negligent dog owner could be liable for the serious injuries and damages that resulted from the attack. In addition to facing charges for improperly keeping a dangerous dog, those injured or impacted by a dog attack could file a civil action such as a premises liability claim.

When a property owner is negligent and a visitor is injured by a dangerous condition on the property, those injured could recover compensation for their losses and damages. Victims have legal rights and options and could obtain more information by seeking legal guidance about their situation.

Source:, "Thinking of getting a dog? You might want to read this first: The Judicial Notice," Jessica Brewbaker, accessed April 22, 2015.

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