955 dog bites last year in Pennsylvania: Tips for victims

Officers are tasked with keeping the community safe from dangerous dogs, but funds are running out.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding recently told a local newspaper that there were 955 reported dog bite attacks in Pennsylvania during 2016. The Insurance Information Institute and State Farm also ranked Pennsylvania fourth in nation for dog bite cases. Which raises the question, with an estimated 2.3 million dogs in the state, how do we keep our communities safe?

Many of these animals are wonderful companions, but others are aggressive and considered dangerous to others. The state has various laws in place to help balance the joy that comes with owning a companion animal or hunting dog while reducing the risk of an incident with a dangerous dog. One such law is the animal confinement law. This law requires all animals be confined in the owner's property or secured with a collar and leash. There are some exceptions to this requirement, such as using a properly trained dog to assist in hunting.

Officers keep our communities safe by enforcing this and other laws. Unfortunately, the funds that help cover these costs are shrinking.

How are these officers funded?

The Dog Law Restricted Account funds these officers. A recent report by Penn Live notes that these funds are almost out. In an attempt to build up funds, the state is considering rising dog license fees.

Dog license fees are currently set at an annual fee of $6.50 for a neutered dog and $8.50 for an unneutered dog. The proposal would increase these rates to $10 and $13, respectively. A lifetime license is also available. The current rates are set at $31.50 for a neutered dog and $51.50 for an unneutered. These rates would increase to $44 and $74, respectively. If approved, the increase could translate to $2.8 million in funds to the account.

In addition to raising the cost of licensing, the proposal would also result in a statewide dog registry. The registry will assist in returning dogs to their owners, but could also prove helpful in the event of a dog attack. The group has already taken steps to cut costs, one of which being to reduce staff from 92 to 62. Additional funding is necessary to avoid further reduction in staff. Additional reductions would translate to less regulation of the dangerous dog registry and fewer officers available to respond to dog bite attacks.

What to do if bit by a dog in Pennsylvania?

The first step is to get medical treatment if needed. It is also important to get a description of the animal that was responsible for the attack and whether or not it was a pet or stray. If it is a pet, get the owner's contact information.

In the event that the attack was caused by a pet, the owner would likely be held liable under the legal theory of negligence. Owners are required to keep the public safe from their animals. A failure to do so will likely result in liability. This can lead to funds for the victims to help cover the costs associated with the attack. Costs like medical bills to treat the injuries resulting from the bite.

Building a case will require various pieces of evidence. An experienced attorney can help explain the process and advocate for your rights, building a case and better ensuring that those responsible for the injury are held accountable.