Does the One-Bite Law Exist?

I’ve been asked many times over the years if there is a “One-Bite” law in Pennsylvania regarding dog bite injuries. Essentially, this belief is that a dog gets one “free bite” before the owner can be held liable for any attack. In this way, the first attack would not carry any consequences for the owner. After the 1996 Amendments to the Dog Law and following a new Superior Court case, whatever might have been true about the “one free bite” rule now clearly no longer exists.

Liability at the First Offence

Now, any dog owner may be liable for the actions of their dog at the first bite or attack. Until recently, the victim would have to show that the dog had a previous dangerous or violent tendency. Today, however, a jury may consider that the first attack is enough to establish whether the dog has a violent propensity or tendency to attack human beings.


So owners must take all necessary steps to secure their dogs and keep them from harming others. Interestingly, an “owner” is defined a bit more broadly than you may think. A dog “owner” is defined to include “every person who permits such dogs to remain on or about any premises occupied by him.” Our Pennsylvania injury lawyers can help with your dog law questions or claims.

Rental Situations

Also, quite importantly, and not so well known, is that landlords who know of the presence of a dangerous animal and where such landlord has the right to control or remove the animal by retaking possession or requiring the dog’s removal, may also be liable for any injuries caused by the dog’s attack. For this reason, residential leases should, at-minimum, bar any tenant from keeping or permitting a dangerous dog on the premises. The lease may also indicate that the tenant will be responsible for any injuries caused by a dog owned by them or allowed to stay on the premises.

Contact our Pennsylvania landlord and commercial law attorneys for the specific, suggested language for such lease agreements and, by all means, keep that dog on a leash.