Defenses Commonly Used Dog Bite Attacks By Owner

Dog bite victims in Pennsylvania have a few different options for recovering damages from the dog’s owner. If the dog bit someone in the past, then the owner is liable for all damages. If the dog has never bitten a person, then the dog’s owner may only be liable for medical damages.

In either case, though, it’s possible that the dog’s owner will fight the claim. First, report the dog attack. Next, you may have to deal with some of these commonly used defenses in dog bite attacks.


A dog’s owner may claim that the dog bite victim was trespassing at the time of the dog attack, and, therefore, the owner should not be held liable for damages. Under Pennsylvania’s Consolidated dog bite statutes, Chapter 8 “Dog Law,” liability does not apply if the victim “was committing a willful trespass or other tort upon the premises occupied by the owner of the animal…”

It’s important to note that if you were on the dog owner’s property at the time of the attack, you might not have necessarily been trespassing. You may have been acting as an invitee or licensee. An attorney can help you to understand the difference.


Pennsylvania’s dangerous dog statute, also dog owner liability, expressly states that the law applies to those dogs that attack without provocation.

If the dog’s owner can prove that you were doing one of the following to the animal at the time of attack, then he or she may not be held liable.

  • Tormenting
  • Abusing
  • Assaulting
  • Provoking
  • Otherwise performing any illegal activity

Knowledge of Risk of Injury

In some cases, a dog owner may try to argue that a dog bite victim knew of the risk of injury associated with approaching the dog but took the risk nonetheless. For example, a person who works with dogs for a living – like a dog groomer – knowingly accepts the risks of that position, i.e. a potential dog bite. As such, the dog owner may not be liable for a dog bite.

What to Do if a Dog Attacks You

The laws regarding dog bite law can be confusing, and there is a variety of defenses that an at-fault dog owner can present to avoid liability. At Cordisco & Saile LLC, we have seen many dog bite cases. You can reach us at 215-642-2335.