Summer’s warmer weather brings outside activities and fun in the sun. For many pet owners, this means that dogs will spend most of the day outside, soaking up the sun and fresh air. While dogs can be great companions, it is important to be aware of state and local ordinances regarding dog ownership, and the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid dog bites.

Pennsylvania has leash laws that dog owners must follow. Dog owners must keep their dogs under control at all times, to prevent dogs from running at large. Attaching the dog to a leash or lead, or confining dogs to the property using a fence, are means to establish control. Dog owners also must follow local ordinances.

In Pennsylvania, dog owners may be responsible for damages caused by their dog. There are several factors used to determine liability, such as:

Training and Dog Bite History: 

  • In some instances, owners can train their dogs to be aggressive towards other dogs and unknown people. If the owner of the dog is found to have a dog with dangerous propensities, and the owner is aware of the violent propensity, the owner may be held responsible for damages or medical/veterinary bills.

 Provocation and Trespassing:

  • Even though dogs are domesticated, dogs still have the animal instincts of their wolf ancestors. If a dog feels threatened or antagonized by an external source, it will react to protect itself. In a lawsuit involving a dog bite, provocation and trespassing are two defenses a homeowner can raise if the homeowner’s dog attacks you.


Even though leash laws are in place to protect people from aggressive behavior, dog bites can still happen. Below are some tips on how to minimize the chances of an altercation with a dog.

  1. Ask permission to pet a dog. If you have never met the dog before, ask the owner if it is safe to touch the dog. Dogs may be more aggressive towards people they have not met before. Never approach a dog secured in someone else’s yard if the owner is not present.


  1. Know the warning signs. A dog will engage in territorial behavior prior to biting. One such signal is “flagging.” Flagging occurs when the dog’s tail is above spine level, and moves rapidly back and forth. Flagging is coupled by other bodily signals, such as leaning forward, appearing taller, or the hackles (fur on the shoulder blades and spine) are raised. If the dog is engaging in any activity you perceive as threatening, do not approach or touch the dog.


  1. If a dog in the neighborhood is known to be aggressive, or to leave its property, try to avoid walking by the house.


  1. Avoid disturbing a dog if it is sleeping, eating, or caring for young puppies.


  1. If you feel threatened by a dog, don’t panic, make loud noises, or run. Dogs are sensitive to sound and abrupt movements. Dogs will perceive these actions as a threat to its safety, and it may become more aggressive.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. For legal advice, call Graham & Mauer, P.C. today.

Sources: PA Dept. of Agriculture: https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Animals/DogLaw/pa-dog-laws/Pages/default.aspx