With over 4.5 million occurrences per year, dog bites are one of the most common injuries in the United States. While 80 percent of dog bites do not require medical care, those that do can cause serious complications, such as disfigurement, infection and even death. Part of the solution to the problem of dog bites is to implement preventative measures as both a dog owner and when interacting with the dogs of others. However, when a bite does occur, it is in the best interests of the victim to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine who is liable and if damages can be recovered.
As an owner, the most effective preventative measure for dog bites is to train the dog. Dogs should understand and follow basic commands, including commands to sit, stay, lie down and come. Part of a dog’s training should also include proper socialization. If dogs are not properly acclimated to people, they may become afraid or aggressive when strangers are near.
In addition to being trained, dogs should be leashed when they may come into contact with the public. The only time they should be unleashed is when they are inside the home or in fenced enclosures. Some dog owners rely on electronic fences that use shock collars, but this does not prevent someone from approaching the dog. It only prevents the dog from leaving the yard.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) also states that dog owners should not play aggressive games with their dogs and that dogs should be trained to drop any toys in their mouths on command. This prevents inadvertent biting while the dog is playing and in a state of excitement.
Part of the responsibility for preventing dog bites falls on the observer or the person interacting with a dog. The first rule is to not approach unfamiliar dogs, especially in a sudden or abrupt manner. Dogs are very territorial, and their space must be respected. Permission should be obtained from the dog’s owner before the dog is approached or touched in any way.
Special consideration should be taken when approaching puppies. Although the puppies will probably not cause damaging bites, their mother may become very protective and attack if she is nearby and perceives a threat.
If a loose or obviously aggressive dog approaches a person, he or she should not make any sudden movements or loud noises. The person’s arms should be crossed over the chest, and eye contact with the dog should be avoided. If the dog does not lose interest and is more than a few feet away, tossing a nearby object away from the dog may distract it enough to provide the time to slowly turn and walk away.
Legal Help for Dog Bites
If preventative measures fail and a person gets bitten by a dog, it is imperative to contact an attorney right away. The victim should never admit fault for the attack. An experienced attorney will provide a free consultation where the matter can be discussed and evaluated. In many cases, an attorney is necessary to go through the legal steps required to receive compensation when someone other than the victim is liable for the dog bite.