0

I am the owner of a fear reactive/aggressive dog. I live in PA.


Background

I take responsibility for all that my dog does, and I'm embarrassed and mortified beyond belief when he bites other dogs. I've never blamed anyone else. I believe everyone has the right to walk their dog without fear of their dog being attacked.

About a year and a half ago, I brought home a Belgian Tervuren. Having bred and raised high-intensity dogs (Border Collies) for 15 years, and looking for something a bit different (both of my remaining BC's were past ten years of age) I thought I could probably handle a Belgian Tervuren. To say it's a dog of a different color is an understatement.

In any case, at about 5-6 months, he began having fear issues, he was afraid of humans and other dogs. He bit a neighbor's dog, so I put up a fence. He squeezed through the fence with slats every 3 and 7/8 inches and bit another dog. (in neither case did the dogs sustain more than superficial scratches to the back. So I put up heavy deer netting inside the fence. At no time was he outside without me and a leash and harness. When he saw a dog that particularly riled him, he tore through the netting and was outside the fence, with me holding a leash and an empty harness. Again, though he attacked the dog, nothing serious happened (I had everyone get their dogs checked by vets and paid the bills.)

To make a long story a bit shorter, he never escaped the yard once I put in 18 gauge hardware cloth. Great! The police (called each time) warned me one more event and they would take me and my dog to court. Fair enough.

Last week, on getting home from grocery shopping, I didn't see that a woman was walking two small dogs nearby. On unloading my dog, he spotted them before me, and within a second, I was left holding an empty collar on a leash. He inflicted a 3 inch laceration on the dogs left thigh. I was mortified. I apologized profusely and offered to take the dog to the vet immediately. The owner declined.

Now the police are issuing a number of citations and summonses, and they are going to try to get my dog classified as a dangerous dog.


My understanding of the dangerous dog law in PA is that the dog is dangerous if it has:

Inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property.

Killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal, dog or cat without provocation while off the owner’s property.

Attacked a human being without provocation.

Been used in the commission of a crime.

Has a history of attacking human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats without provocation.

Has a propensity to attack human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats without provocation.

I think it's pretty clear that my dog may very well fill that shoe by virtue of that last condition.

They further add:

Severe injury is defined as, [3 P.S. § 459-102] “Any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.”

Note my dog has never severely injured an animal. The very worst he's done was a superficial laceration on the inner thigh of a small dog, requiring sutures and probably antibiotics. But in PA, the magistrate hearing the case has the ability to broadly interpret the law.

I understand that if my dog is declared a dangerous dog, I will need to reinforce my enclosure, keep him muzzled whenever off my property, post large signs regarding "dangerous dog", and insure the dog for $50,000, post a surety bond of $50K in the event he bites a person (he has not, and is no longer aggressive towards people.)


The question:

Tonight I spoke to a trainer who advertised that he worked with aggressive GSDs and Belgian Malinois for police work. When I told him of my dog's problems, he told me that he was a former police offer, and this is what would happen if the dog is declared dangerous:

I will either have to euthanize my dog, or, will have to post $250,000 bond, will lose my home owner's insurance (I already spoke to my insurance agent who had reassured me that I would not lose my home owner's insurance), and..., and..., and. When I questioned him on where he got his information, he told me he was actively involved as a police officer in getting dogs declared dangerous. When I cited the law I had read (thrice), he just insisted he knew what happens and that I was wrong.

My question is: Is this really what happens to people whose dogs are determined as dangerous?

  • 1
    This article includes case law on PA dangerous dog convictions: pennstatelaw.psu.edu/_file/aglaw/…, and it's noteworthy that in every case there was an injury to a person. – user6726 Feb 26 at 1:21
  • @user6726 - Yes, I cited that paper in the comment below the answer. That paper worries me; at least one case went to the PA Supreme Court. I don't think I have that kind of money to fight that hard. – anongoodnurse Feb 26 at 6:01
2

I find 3 P. S. § § 459-503-A, the "Dangerous Dog law" online at:

as well as the dept of agriculture page linked in the question. All of these sources agree in detail, and all specify the $50,000 amount for the insurance and the same amount for the bond (which are separate). None agree with what the self-described ex-policeman is quoted as saying in the question.

Moreover, all of them indicate that a "dangerous dog" is one that the magistrate finds fits both (1) and (2) below:

(1) The dog has done any of the following:

(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.

(2) The dog has either or both of the following:

(i) A history of attacking human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats without provocation.

(ii) A propensity to attack human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats without provocation.  A propensity to attack may be proven by a single incident of the conduct described in paragraph (1)(i), (ii), (iii) or (iv).

As described in the question, (2) seems to clearly apply but (1) does not. However, a magistrate might find the dog to be dangerous even if the strict requirements are not met, and it is not clear if there is an appeal in such a case. And all this is based only on the statements in the question. Facts not stated there could lead to a different result.

The owner would be wise to consult a lawyer on this point. But it does not seem that the ex-policeman was accurately stating the law.

  • Thank you for this answer. I don't know what the trainer was thinking except to scare me into euthanizing my dog (his opinion of what should be done.) However, the DD law is [often broadly (mis?)interpreted by magistrates and i' was afraid this had/has actually happened, though I can't understand why. The trainer knew the dog had never bitten a person, as do the officers who have come to investigate my dog. One officer directly told me he thought my dog should be euthanized, stating "What if next time, it's a kid?... – anongoodnurse Feb 25 at 11:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.