Non-Owner Guilty of Failure to Confine & Harboring Dangerous Dogs

Posted on: June 29th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A 2007 ruling by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a Berks County Court of Common Pleas conviction of violations of the PA Dog Law.  The Berks County dog bite victim was attacked on her property by a neighbor’s 2 pit bulls.  She was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries to her hands and legs.  The neighbor was charged with failure to confine the pit bulls and harboring dangerous dogs.

The Defendant’s defense was that her sons actually owned the pit bulls and that there was no proof the dogs had attacked others before this incident.  The Trial Court noted that the Defendant permitted the pit bulls to remain on her property for several years and she helped care for them.  These actions met the definition of ‘Owner’ in Section 102 of the PA Dog Law.  Therefore, she was guilty of violating Section 305 in that she failed to keep the pit bulls confined within her home, firmly secured by a collar & chain or under the reasonable control of a person.

The Appeals Court confirmed that the Defendant did harbor dangerous dogs as all 3 elements of Section 502 of the PA Dog Law were met.  The property owner met the definition of dog owner.  The pit bulls did attack a human being without provocation.  Lastly, the facts of the attack permitted the fact finder to rule that the pit bulls evidenced a propensity to attack human beings without provocation.  It was not necessary to prove that the injuries sustained were severe or that there were prior attacks.  Commonwealth v. Seyler, 929 A.2d 262 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2007)