Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Pennsylvania?

I have a dog. I love dogs. But something that comes up frequently is, “What do I do if a dog is attacking me, or my dog or loved one?”

Under Pennsylvania law, it is lawful for you to shoot a dog if it’s attacking you or another person or your domestic animal. If that’s the case then there is no crime, and you can put down the attacking dog.

The animal cruelty statute recently changed, however. I remember back when I started my career it was very narrow and very tough to prove, but it’s been massively expanded. So, it’s worth talking about to make sure that we know what the law is. This way we can stay on the right side of the law and know how prosecutors can potentially try to twist the situation.

I’ve handled an enormous number of murder cases. I will tell you that those are emotionally draining for everyone involved. But a death-of-a-dog case is even more so. I’ve seen people become quite distraught.

The aggravated cruelty to animals statute in Pennsylvania makes it a crime to torture an animal. That’s pretty straightforward. The statute also makes it a crime to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engage in a course of conduct that is going to result in the death or serious bodily injury of an animal.

So, you can see how that might get twisted, or try to get twisted under certain circumstances, by some prosecutor … because maybe the owner of the dog is politically connected or is particularly vocal. We see that sometimes.

You need to be aware of those types of things. Most importantly, the bottom line is that if a dog is attacking you, another person, or your domestic animal, then you can use lethal, deadly force.

If you have any questions, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.

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