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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 12, 2019 04:18 PM
From: Senator Thomas H. Killion
To: All Senate members
Subject: Dangerous Dogs
Please join me in co-sponsoring legislation that would amend the Dog Law (Act of December 7, 1982; P.L. 784, No. 225) by removing a loophole relating to dangerous dogs.

Under current law, a dog may severely injure someone unprovoked, yet be cleared of all charges. This is because ‘vicious propensity’ needs to be proven in order for a dog to be deemed dangerous, despite it causing severe injury to a human. Needing to prove ‘vicious propensity’ is a safety issue, for children in particular. In Chester County, there have been three recent attacks in which children have been severely injured by a dog, all unprovoked, and the dog was cleared of charges. Despite the dogs inflicting severe injury, vicious propensity could not be proven and the dogs have no precautions in place to prevent future attacks.

My legislation would eliminate the need to prove that a dog has a vicious propensity or a history of attacks, if it is proven that a dog has inflicted severe injury to a human unprovoked. To eliminate ambiguity in the courts, this bill would also define provocation.

Specifically, my bill would:

1. Better protect the public from dogs that have severely injured a person.
The burden of proof would not look into the past behavior of the dog, but rather focus on the current attack. This would make it easier for the authorities to prosecute and have precautions put in place.

2. Help streamline the process of prosecution.
Since this would be a summary offense, a police officer (and not the District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney) would prosecute. The police officer would not have to play the part of a lawyer, as can be the case with the current law, but rather present the facts based on the severity of the injury, and whether it was provoked. Tracking down past victims can be difficult, if not impossible. The authorities’ job would be made easier to protect and serve.

3. No longer require a need for character witnesses, either for the defense, or the prosecution, and past victims would not need to testify. If there would be no need to prove vicious propensity, no character witnesses would be needed. Medical reports would be submitted, and eye witnesses would testify as to the events. This would streamline the court process and reduce out-of-pocket costs that both sides typically incur for experts. If there are past victims, they may not want to testify; especially if they are children. There would be no need for law enforcement to track them down and possibly subpoena them.

This legislation will be similar to SB 816, PN 1456, of the 2017-2018 Session which was approved by the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on January 31, 2018 by a vote of 12-0 but not considered by the full Senate prior to the last scheduled voting Session day.

Under current law, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement provides specific information on “dangerous dogs” and has helpful information on their website at www.agriculture.pa.gov/Animals/DogLaw/Dangerous%20Dogs/Pages/default.aspx.

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation, which takes steps to further protect children and all persons from dangerous dogs.

Introduced as SB798