State's dangerous dog list has bite

Call it the "most wanted dog list." Or the canine equivalent of a Megan's Law list. You might not know it, but stored away in computer files at the Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg is a list of the state's most dangerous dogs.

Here's what constitutes a dangerous dog under Pennsylvania law: one that has attacked, inflicted severe injury to or killed a human or a domestic animal without provocation while off an owner’s property. Once a dog is declared dangerous by a judge, the owner must: pay the state a $500 registration fee, keep it securely confined, post a warning sign, keep it muzzled in public, spay or neutered and post bond or buy a $50,000 liability insurance policy.

The alternative, state officials say, is euthanasia. Not everyone agrees, of course, that their dog is a menace. Some owners have successfully appealed the dangerous designation.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for a story that ran on Tuesday filed a Right to Know request to get a copy of the list, which contains hundreds of dogs. The Department of Agriculture spokeswoman told me there is a discrepency in the numbers. The current number of registered dangerous dogs in the database for the entire state is 246, not 335 as stated in the Patriot-News article, said Nicole Bucher. 

The discrepancy comes from the reporter's Right to Know request, dated Aug. 12, that asks for a list of “dangerous dogs declared guilty.” That list may include dogs that were deemed guilty by a judge, but are not registered (a) because they have 30 days to register or (b) because their case is under appeal, she said.

Here are the dangerous dog numbers for the southeast:

Bucks: 8

Chester: 8

Delaware: 11

Montgomery: 17


Philadelphia's list is kept separately through the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.