PA Supreme Court justices split on whether violation of PA’s Dog Law requires intent

By: Sheila M. Burke, Esquire

Any dog owner has probably struggled with whether they need to keep their dog on a leash at all times. In Pa, the “Dog Law” states as follows:

It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times the dog in any of the following manners:

(1) confined within the premises of the owner;

(2) firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or

(3) under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, exhibition, performance events or field training.

See, 3 P.S. § 459-305. Recently the PA Supreme Court was split on whether the “fail to keep at all times” language requires intent by the owner. See, Commonwealth v. Raban,. The Superior Court previously ruled that there is no intent required, and the statute is one of strict liability. In other words, if your dog is caught off lease, you are guilty. In Raban, the Plaintiff’s giant schnauzer left his property, crossed a street and attacked another dog. After the alleged attack, neighbors observed Raban place an electric fence collar on the dog's neck. The police were called and Raban was issued a citation pursuant to Section 305(a) (1). At a bench trial, Raban was found guilty of violating Section 305(a)(1) twice within one year, which is a misdemeanor offense. The first offense is a summary offense. He was sentenced to six months of He was sentenced to six months of nonreporting probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine. Mr. Raban argued that his lack of intent to harm should have been considered but the Superior Court disagreed. Since the Supreme Court was split, the decision by the Superior Court stands as the law in the Commonwealth. So keep those dogs on a leash!

Any questions on this case or any other General Liability matters contact Sheila Burke at