Dog bite expert & animal behavior specialist

Richard H. Polsky, PhD, CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Dr. Richard Polsky - The Dog Expert

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Attaching leash improperly results in dog bite in Pennsylvania

Q. The problem occured directly in front of my parents home which I was visiting. My mother had taken the dog out to go to bathroom, then handed the dog to me on his leash. A couple walked by, and I restrained my dog as he got excited. My mother had accidentally looped his leash on the wrong ring, so he broke free (which isn’t hard to do if it is improperly attached) and ran over to the couple. At this point, I didn’t see exactly what happened, but apparently my dog grabbed the woman’s fur coat, and her husband kicked him to get him to release it, at which point he bit the back of her leg. After he kicked him twice more, he got scared and ran off down the street. My wife and I then retrieved him. A police report was filed, but I currently live out of state, so I am not sure what will happen next. The victim had never seen my dog before. My dog does get excited when he is on his leash, but has never bitten anyone before. Please let me know your thoughts.

Chris Finlan, Doylestown, PA.

A. In Pennsylvania, strict liability for dog bites does not exist and therefore you would be liable for the injuries inflicted to this person provided that you had sufficient knowledge that your dog could engage in the kind of behavior that led to the injury of this person walking past your property.

It sounds as though you knew that your dog would get excited but it may be more questionable if you knew this dog could bite. For my perspective, since the incident happened in Pennsylvania, if the plaintiff decides to bring legal action against you, the burden would be on him to demonstrate that your dog had the propensity to act to the way it did in the context in which the incident occurred. Another issue certainly has to do with the way your mother put the leash on to the dog – she was probably negligent in this regard.