Failure To Confine Conviction Upheld By Superior Court

Posted on: June 29th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

An October 5, 2011 decision of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a Trial Judge’s decision to find a dog owner guilty of failing to confine his dog in violation of the PA Dog Law.  The defendant did not have his Giant Schnauzer restrained with a leash or controlled via an electric fence collar.

The victim was walking his Bernese Mountain dog on the opposite side of the defendant’s home.  The Giant Schnauzer ran across the road and attacked the victim’s dog.  The police were called and cited the defendant for failure to confine his dog in violation of 3 P.S. Section 459-305(a)(1).  In a non-jury trial, the Chester County Trial Judge found the defendant guilty of the PA Dog Law.  He was sentenced to 6 months of non-reporting probation and a $500.00 fine.

The defendant appealed, claiming that there was no Mens Rea proven.  Mens Rea is a legal term meaning criminal intent.  Citing Boehr v. Commonwealth ex rel. Lower Merion Township, 414 A.2d 415 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980) and Commonwealth v. Glumac, 717 A.2d 572 (Pa. Super. 1998), the Superior Court held that the Commonwealth only had to prove that the dog owner had not confined his animal.  Scienter or ciminal intent is irrelevant.   “The mandate to confine a dog is thus stated absolutely and not in terms of reasonable care.”

In essence, there is strict liability on the part of a dog owner to keep his/her dog confined regardless of the circumstances.  Commonwealth v. Raban, 31 A.3d 699 (Pa. Super. 2011).