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Summer, dog parks and dangerous encounters: What you should know

If you have a dog, the start of summer means it's time to start taking your dog back to the dog park for exercise and play.

Dog parks are a great part of city culture because they give dogs and dog owners a chance to socialize -- but they can also be dangerous for both pets and humans when people don't take certain precautions.

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind about dog parks:

1. You should keep your dog on a leash until you know how he or she behaves

If you've never been to a dog park with your dog before, it's smart to keep your pet on a leash for a while. That way, you can see if your dog shows signs of aggression toward other animals or humans.

2. Owners are liable for bites if they know their dog has a propensity to bite

Pennsylvania follows what is sometimes called the "one bite rule." Essentially, that means that any dog owner who has reason to know that his or her dog can be aggressive is expected to take steps to prevent others from being hurt.

For example, if you see a dog growling and snapping at people one week at the dog park and get bitten by the same dog the following week, the owner would likely be fully responsible for your injuries.

3. Owners of dogs with no history of aggression may also be liable for bites

You probably wouldn't dream of taking your dog to a dog park if he or she ever showed aggression. So, what happens if your dog surprises you by biting someone?

State law differentiates between unprovoked attacks and provoked attacks and between severe injuries and nonsevere injuries. If your dog was provoked into the attack -- for example, biting someone who tried to mug you -- that might remove any liability from your shoulders. On the other hand, if your dog launches an unprovoked attack on another dog owner and seriously injures that person, you could be liable for any losses the victim suffers. If the injuries are minor, you would likely only have to compensate the other party for medical expenses.

If you've been the victim of a dog attack, it's important to find out everything you can about your rights. Even a small dog can cause major damage!

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DelVecchio & Miller, LLC

DelVecchio & Miller, LLC
1300 5th Ave., Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-228-4541
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