Criminal defense cases tend to focus on things like assault or murder, DUIs or drug charges. However, there are times when you could face serious penalties for something as simple as your dog attacking another person or animal.

In Pennsylvania, the first time a dog attacks gives the victim a right to file a complaint in District Court. The District Court can then determine if the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor is likely if the prosecution is able to prove that the dog attacked a human without provocation. It is also possible if you can show that the dog has the likelihood of attacking domestic animals or humans. This can be proven with records of a single severe injury.

In some cases, the court can find the owner or keeper of the animal guilty of housing a dangerous animal if it attacks other animals while it is not on the owner’s land. In these cases, it is typical for the owner to pay restitution to the victim.

In subsequent attacks, things get worse for the owner. If a dog was dangerous in the past, the owner then faces additional liabilities. Dangerous dogs are supposed to be muzzled when they are outside of the home. If a dog bites a person when it is not on the owner’s property, the owner can be charged with a misdemeanor immediately. Fines can range but may be as much as $5,000.

If you’re facing a misdemeanor because of your pet, there are steps you can take to help yourself. Paying for medical expenses, taking steps to correct the pet’s behaviors or surrendering the pet and other factors may be considered positive in the eyes of the court and prevent you from receiving a misdemeanor.