Close the PA Dangerous Dog Loophole and Protect Children.
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In the summer of 2016, our eight-year-old son was viciously attacked and bitten multiple times in the face by a neighbor’s dog without provocation. This picture was taken a week before the attack that left a portion of his upper lip hanging, split open and torn from his face. His lower lip was split straight through and shredded by the dog’s teeth. His nose and cheek were punctured. The dog’s teeth just missed the labial artery and left it exposed. Had it been severed, this attack could have been far more serious. General anesthesia and hours of cosmetic surgery were required. He was left with facial scars and deformed lips. The dog was not determined to be a dangerous dog under PA law because of a loophole. As a result, the neighborhood is left unprotected and our son is forced to see his attacker unmuzzled on a regular basis.
The Pennsylvania Dog Law is defective. The judge hearing the case found beyond a reasonable doubt that this dog attack was unprovoked and caused severe injury. However, the case resulted in a not guilty verdict. In PA, getting a dog declared as dangerous requires proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the dog has a ‘vicious propensity’ in addition to proving the attack was unprovoked and caused severe injury. While the law states that the incident itself “may” prove vicious propensity (to attack), the lack of clarity in the law leaves a loophole. The dog owners can exploit it because a single attack causing severe injury without provocation does not legally guarantee such vicious propensity.
Some people have commented that it's just a bad ruling by the judge. If one judge can get it so wrong, this can and will happen again. Imagine if a rape verdict required proving not only the actual rape, but also a propensity to rape. After hearing witnesses on behalf of the rapist testify that they were not raped and that the rapist was always nice to them and their family, the judge finds the rapist not guilty. It is absurd. One rape is enough. Just like one unprovoked attack causing severe injury should be enough too. The law needs the "may" removed from it so that a fair verdict is certain. To be clear, this is not about punishing or putting the dog down. A guilty verdict is required to make the owners, whose dogs commit these acts, take reasonable precautions.
By supporting this cause, you agree that a single unprovoked attack causing severe injury is enough. The courts shouldn’t wonder about how to interpret ‘vicious propensity’. A dog that does this once has already proven that it has the vicious propensity to do it again.
Protections are required by the Dangerous Dog Law when there is a guilt verdict. Owners of a dangerous dog are required to post a warning sign, muzzle the dog when out in public, maintain bonding for the medical expenses should there be a next victim, construct a proper enclosure to protect people from the dog, and register the dog with the state so that no unsuspecting family adopts the dog in the future without being warned about its history.
Please let your state representatives and state senators know you care about the safety of children and neighborhoods. No one should have to feel unsafe in their own neighborhood!
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