Every year in Pennsylvania, hundreds of law abiding dog owners are charged with the criminal offense of Harboring a Dangerous Dog 3 P.S. § 459-502-A. Under the statute, a dog owner if guilty of a summary offense if the government can establish the following elements of the offense
“Dangerous Dog” Attack Without Provocation
In order to convict the dog owner the government must prove the dog has:
(i) Inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property.
(ii) Killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal, dog or cat without provocation while off the owner’s property.
(iii) Attacked a human being without provocation.
(iv) Been used in the commission of a crime.
The government must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The statute requires either severe injury or an attack on a human being without provocation. Therefore, if the injury is not sever or the dog was provoked the government may fail to meet their burden.
“Dangerous Dog” Propensity or History of Attack
The crime of Harboring a Dangerous Dog also requires the government to prove the dog has a propensity to attack human beings and/or domestic animals or a history of attacking them. Therefore, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the dog is likely to attack in the future or has attacked animals or livestock in the past. Therefore, to convict a dog owner of the summary offense the government must prove the animal attack or inflicted severe injury without provocation; and attacked in the past and/or is likely to attack again. If the government cannot prove all of these elements the Defendant must be found not guilty of the offense.
Penalties for Harboring a Dangerous Dog
A conviction for Harboring a Dangerous dog can have extreme consequences. If a Defendant is convicted he will be required to register his dog with the Department of Agriculture, present evidence the dog is kept in an enclosure, pay court-ordered restitution, microchip the dog, have the dog spayed or neutered to limit his aggressiveness, and obtain homeowners insurance to keep the dog. For a full list of requirements review the statute here.
Case Results: Defendant Not Guilty of Harboring Dangerous Dog
Our firm has had success in defending the criminal charges of Harboring a Dangerous Dog. In Commonwealth v. R.F. the Defendant was charged with the offense after her pit bull viciously attacked a delivery repairman. The repairman filed a civil lawsuit for his injuries and a criminal complaint for Harboring a Dangerous Dog. At trial the complainant through the government presented evidence of his gruesome injuries. Ultimately, the Defendant was found not guilty because evidence was presented that R.F. took reasonable steps to keep and maintain her dog. R.F. has posted a “Beware of the Dog” sign on her property and the delivery repairman ignored R.F.’s requests to call in advance so she could secure her dog. The Court ultimately found that R.F.’s actions were reasonable, and therefore it was unlikely the dog was attack again. R.F. was found not guilty and she was not forced to put down her animal.
Harboring a Dangerous Dog Lawyers
If you have been charged with Harboring a Dangerous Dog, contact our office for a free, no obligation consultation. We will advise you of your legal rights and how you may successfully defend the case. Mark Copoulos, Esquire has more than twelve years of legal experience defending criminal charges in Philadelphia County. for a free consultation call 267-535-9776.