Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly where a child is involved (as is often the case). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Children are especially at risk for dog attacks. It is important to teach children to be safe around dogs to prevent these catastrophic events from occurring.
Pennsylvania's dog bite liability statute requires there to be proof that the dog's owner was negligent by allowing a dangerous dog to roam free in order for the owner to be held liable for the dog's actions. In general, the law requires that dogs be confined, on a leash, or under the reasonable control of some person at all times. 3 Pa. Consol. Stat. § 459-305.
If the owner knows or has reason to know of the dog's violent propensities, the owner of the dog is liable for damages caused by the dog. Skowronski v. Bailey, 330 Pa. Super 83, 478 A.2d 1362 (1984). Once an owner knows of a dog's violent propensities, the owner must have the dog registered as a dangerous dog. 3 Pa. Stat. § 459-502-A. An owner should know that a dog is dangerous if the dog severely injures someone without provocation, or has a history of attacking people or other animals without provocation. Dangerous dogs are not allowed outside an enclosure on the owner's property unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a chain or a leash. 3 Pa. Stat. § 459-503-A.
If a stray bites you, you have little legal recourse because you must file your claim against a dog's owner or keeper. Your municipality is not responsible for the dog, even if you have called the animal warden several times to pick up the stray.