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Dinniman to Introduce Bills to Clarify Dog Law; Allow Civil Awards
WEST CHESTER (February 26) – State Senator Andy Dinniman will soon introduce two bills to address and help deter pet-shooting incidents like that which occurred on Feb. 12 in West Vincent where a family’s two dogs were killed by another neighborhood resident.
This month Senator Dinniman will introduce legislation amending the Pennsylvania Dog Law to better clarify the section that explains when one may shoot a dog on their property. Under Dinniman’s bill, such action would be allowed not when the dog is simply “pursuing” another animal but actually doing so “with apparent intent to harm.”
Dinniman said this bill will apply within counties of the first, second and third classes. He said Chester County and the other more populated areas are where such conflicts are more likely to occur and where clarifying legislation is needed “so farmers and homeowners can better live in harmony.”
Senator Dinniman will introduce his other bill on Friday. It would let pet-owners seek civil damages for the injury or death of their dog or cat if the harm was inflicted intentionally or through negligence.
While Pennsylvania law currently allows pet-owners in such situations to recover their economic loss – specifically the price paid for the pet – Dinniman’s bill would also let Pennsylvania’s courts award damages in recognition of the companionship and affection provided by our pet dogs and cats.
Suits for damages would be heard at the magisterial district court level; the maximum civil penalty would be $12,000.
Dinniman and staff researched and drafted the bill prior to the Feb. 12 incident in West Vincent where a resident shot and killed two Bernese mountain dogs that had escaped from a neighbor’s yard and entered his property. On Feb. 22 the Chester County District Attorney charged the resident with cruelty to animals after determining “there was no justification for the killing of these two dogs.”
Dinniman said, “My bill, even if passed, is not retroactive and will have no direct affect on the parties in West Vincent one way or the other. But this awful shooting illustrates what can happen and the need for our justice system to better recognize the unique role pets fill in our families.”
“In fact, I don’t consider the civil damage award to be my bill’s main message,” Dinniman continued. “The main message is for Pennsylvania’s courts to recognize the companionship and affection provided by pets and that both have value.”
Under Dinniman’s bill, negligent acts could only result in a civil award if the pet at issue were on the owner’s property or under the owner’s direct control and supervision at the time of the perpetrator negligence. The bill’s language recognizes that state law requires dog-owners to keep their pets on their property or under their control.
The higher $12,000 amount would apply for acts that are intentional and could be awarded regardless of the harmed animal’s location, as in the case of the Bock family.
“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else. We want something in the books to make someone think twice before they go out and do this,” said William Bock. “And these two bills would be a significant step in the right direction.”
Bock and his wife, Mary Bock, met with Senator Dinniman on Tuesday to discuss needed legislative changes.