What to expect 

What to expect during the hearing

It is difficult to say the details of what your hearing will be like, as everyone's situation is unique.  Maybe the dog owner accepts that the dog is dangerous and is aggregable to the charges.  More likely the dog owner will plead not guilty and put the onus on the prosecution to prove the dog dangerous.  You may feel nervous, angry, anxious or sad.  It can be very painful having to recount the attack and face the dog owner in court.  Maybe the dog owner has  brought witnesses to testify as to the dog's good character.  They may do this to disprove a history of attacking or vicious propensity.  You may all be lumped into the same waiting room together.  If that is the case, try to remain calm and understand that everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do.  Some might feel sympathy for the dog, especially if it has never shown any aggression towards them.  Others may feel sympathy for the dog owners, as they will have a summary offence on their record if the dog is deemed dangerous.  While it may be painful, know that the witnesses may not be armed with all the facts and may be acting on emotion or loyalty.  Dog attacks can get minimized in our society.  It's a sad statement, but hopefully with time and education, this perspective will lessen. 

If they have the funds, some dog owners will hire behavioral vets to testify as to testing the dog for aggression.  Often times these tests are in the vet's clinics -not in the dog's natural environment where other people and children are present.   The vet may not believe dogs are aggressive, or may believe that all dog bites are provoked.  The behavioral vet may have a drastically different interpretation of what provoked means than the average citizen.   Sometimes it comes down to the magisterial district judge to determine the definition of provocation,  and whether a single severe injury is enough evidence to prove a dog's vicious propensity.

Some hearings are over fast, others may have many people testifying and may take even more then one day.  The important thing is to go on the stand, state the facts, provide evidence, and know no matter the outcome, you are doing the right thing.  

  • Though you may have an attorney for your civil case, that attorney cannot represent you in the criminal court unless you file the charges yourself.  If you go through the police or the dog warden, the state will represent you.  Usually, this means a police officer.  As it is a summary offence, there is typically no District Attorney (DA) or Assistant District Attorney (ADA) on hand to prosecute.  

  • As the defense has a right to an attorney, they may have one, so be prepared to be cross examined if they do.   

  • The owners of the dog may want to negotiate out of court.  This is not recommended.  That is why there is a legal process already in place for this type of situation.  Do not feel pressured to acquiesce in order to 'keep the peace'.  You are the victim, not the dog owners or the dog.   

Some things of which

to be aware


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