Like many in Ambridge, you likely recognize the positive impact that dogs can have on the homes in which they live. Indeed, the companionship they provide to their owners often makes said owners better able to function themselves. Yet for all of the benefits that come with dog ownership, no one should overlook that dogs are still animals, and as such, can be prone to animalistic instincts, such as acting aggressively towards others. 

What happens, then, if someone else’s dog bites or injures you or a family member? Some may believe that you have no legal recourse if the owner had no reason to think the dog could be dangerous. Whatever the reasons, all seem to point towards the same thing: your inability to pursue legal action against the dog’s owner. 

The “one bite” rule 

Yet are these assertions true? In most cases, they are not. The law views pets similar to any other chattel or personal possession. If someone owns something that has the potential to be dangerous, that individual is liable for any damage the chattel causes. 

Some states have adopted policies that effectively serve as a “one bite” rule. According to the Cornell Law School, this absolves animal owners of liability the first time their pets attack another if the animal has not displayed any previous aggression. 

Pennsylvania’s dog bite liability standard 

Pennsylvania, however, does not recognize the one bite rule. Rather, it follows a strict liability standard when it comes to dog bites. This means that even if the attack was from an animal that had never before displayed aggressive tendencies, its owners could be liable for any injuries or damages you received. 

This holds true for most dog bite cases. The main exception could be if you were deliberately provoking the animal or attacking it in a manner that could result in a defensive response.