Dangerous Dogs

Dangerous dogs are governed by state law. By law a dog may be declared dangerous dog if it has attacked, inflicted severe injury to, or killed a human being or a domestic animal without provocation while off an owner’s property.  A dog may also be considered dangerous if it was involved in committing a crime. The Act does not apply to police dogs , guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, aide dogs for the handicapped, or farm dogs (under certain circumstances).The Act does not apply where a person attacked, provoked the animal, or was committing willful trespass or another unlawful act for which civil suit can be brought. 

You can view Pennsylvania’s Dangerous Dogs laws here.

In Philadelphia for a dog to be declared dangerous, a police officer files a complaint with a magisterial district justice charging the owner or keeper with harboring a dangerous dog.

If you see a dog that you believe is dangerous running at large you should contact 911 or the Philadelphia Animal Care & Control Team at 267-385-3800.  Avoid contact. Animal control will make every effort to apprehend the dog. 

If you have been attacked or witnessed an attack you should contact your local police district  or use the following link: Philadelphia Police Districts. Ask to speak to the Community Relations Officer in the district. That officer will investigate the situation and possibly file charges against the owner of the dog, if an owner can be located. If charges are filed, the dog owner will have to appear before a judge who will make the final disposition on the animal.

  • Animal Control CANNOT seize a dog from an owner. Animal control may apprehend and impound a dog that is actively running at large or take a dog who the owner voluntarily signs over to Animal Control Officers, relinquishing ownership.
  • Apprehension or impoundment of the dog does not mean the dog has been declared dangerous. As a nonprofit without police powers, animal control cannot hold a dog pending the outcome of an investigation or court proceedings unless instructed by a legal authority. This means an owner might reclaim a dog and take the dog home before a declaration is made.
  • Police must file charges against the owner of the dog and the case must go before a judge in order for any dog to be declared dangerous. ACCT Philly Animal Control Officers do not have police powers and cannot file charges.
  • A dog that is declared dangerous will return be returned to its owner per state law and the owner is required to follow the directives of the law which include:
    • Register the animal with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and re-register on an annual basis
    • Registration fee is $500 per calendar year for the life of the dog plus an additional amount as set by the Department to cover administrative cost
    • Confine the dog in a proper enclosure
    • Post a warning sign with a symbol that warns children of the presence of a dangerous dog
    • Keep the dog muzzled and leashed when outside the proper enclosure
    • Spay or Neuter the dog
    • Microchip the dog
    • Be compliant with court ordered restitution
    • Post a bond or purchase and maintain liability insurance in the amount of $50,000 to pay for injuries inflicted by the dog
    • Agree not to cancel the liability insurance during the license period unless he/she disposes of the dog
    • Sign a statement providing that he/she will notify the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, state dog warden and local police if the dog is loose, attacks a human or an animal, dies or is sold/donated