Leash Laws in Pennsylvania

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If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, the owner would likely be liable to pay you full compensation for your injuries.

Pennsylvania’s law allows for strict liability for dog bites. The state’s law also requires owners to keep their animals under control when they are off their property, subject to very limited exceptions.

Dog ownership is a right, although it is a right that the owner can lose if they do not follow the leash laws in PA. If you have been bitten by a dog, the Philadelphia dog bite attorneys at Gibbons & Crichton, and Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers can help you get a settlement check that pays for the harm that you have suffered.

What is Pennsylvania’s Leash Law?

Pennsylvania dog law focuses on the dog being under the control of the owner. Dogs are not allowed to run around at large. Theoretically, the best way for an owner to keep a dog under control is for them to be on a leash. The obligation for the dog to be under control begins the moment that the animal leaves the owner’s property.

The opposite of control is for the dog to be running freely where it may be able to attack or bite other people. The dog’s owner should have the means to keep their animal from approaching and harming people.

Philadelphia Dog Leash Laws

Pennsylvania state law is unclear about whether a dog must be on a leash. There are prohibitions on allowing animals to run at large and be out of the control of the owner, but they stop short of requiring a leash.

However, if a dog is off-leash, it would likely be a violation of Pennsylvania state law because the dog is not under the control of the owner.

Since Pennsylvania law may be ambiguous, cities and municipalities often try to fill the gap with their regulations that dog owners must follow. The dog’s owner can face penalties for failure to follow local law the same way that they can be punished for violating state law.

While there is an overarching state dog leash law, various municipalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may have their leash laws. These ordinances cannot be less strict than the statewide law. Municipalities may add their requirements to make laws stricter or to clarify what they believe to be ambiguities in the state law.

Philadelphia requires all dogs to be on a leash that is six feet or less. According to Ordinance 10-104:

“No person shall permit any animal other than a sterilized cat to go at large upon any street, public place or private property other than the property of the owner of the animal.”

In Philadelphia, Animal Control has the right to seize and confine animals that are found to be running at large. However, the fine for an owner who is found to be violating leash laws is minimal under Philadelphia law.

The bigger issue here for the owner is that their failure to follow the law can make them liable in a dog bite lawsuit.

There are some exceptions to the requirement for the dog to be on a leash. For example, dogs do not have to be on a leash in a specifically designated dog park. There may be some trails in parks throughout the state where dogs may also be allowed off-leash. If the owner is not in a dog park, there would need to be a sign or a specific notification that the dog can be off-leash.

It is up to the dog’s owner to be familiar with the locations where their dog may be off-leash. Not knowing the law or the requirements of the specific area is not a valid excuse for the dog’s owner.

How Dog Leash Laws Are Enforced in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there is a Dog Law Enforcement Office. This office is tasked with enforcing the state’s laws that apply to canines. The dog law enforcement office can take action against an owner for violating state laws.

The Dog Law Enforcement Office may investigate reports of misconduct. For example, if you were to report that a dog was running at large and not under the control of the owner, it would be the Dog Law Enforcement Office that would look into the report and possibly take action against the owner. The Dog Law Enforcement Office may seize a dog that is seen running at large.

Negligence Per Se and Leash Laws

In personal injury law, there is a concept called negligence per se. If someone is breaking a law, it can be used as evidence of negligence in itself.

Leash laws are an example of where the concept of negligence per se may apply. If a police officer comes to the scene of a dog bite attack and issues the dog’s owner a citation for violating leash laws, that could be used as evidence in your civil lawsuit against the dog’s owner.

Pennsylvania follows the law of strict liability for dog bites, so you do not need to prove that the owner was negligent in any way. The mere fact that the dog bite happened shifts the burden of proof back to the owner of the dog to somehow show that you may have been to blame.

While you may not need to prove that the dog was not on a leash, it may be a helpful fact to include with your insurance claim or lawsuit.

Contact a Philadelphia Dog Bite Attorney Today

The attorneys at Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers know how to deal with the insurance companies that try to artificially lower your financial compensation after a dog bite injury.

If you hire an experienced dog bite lawyer, you can fight back. Your legal right to compensation is important to us. You can schedule an initial consultation to speak with one of our attorneys by calling us today at 215-274-0173 or by sending us a message through our firm’s website.

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