Exploring the Statistics on Fatal Dog Attacks in the United States

When properly trained, taken care of, and supervised, dogs can be wonderful pets and companions for people of all ages. From working breeds to the loveable household pooch, dogs have earned a place in homes and workplaces across the greater United States. However, it’s important to remember that all dogs can cause considerable harm when startled, attacked, or provoked.

A study by DogsBite.org revealed that an average of 14,025 U.S. citizens are hospitalized annually due to dog bite injuries. By understanding the basics of dog behaviors and warning signs, you may be able to avoid a potential bite or protect a loved one from harm. We took a closer look at recent data on dog attacks in the U.S. to better understand why dog attacks arise and how the risk of serious injury can be reduced.

What Factors Make a Dog More Likely to Attack?

Although there are always exceptions, canines frequently attack when they feel cornered, frightened, or threatened. Nearly three out of five dog bite victims are children younger than fifteen years old. Of this particularly vulnerable demographic, roughly two-thirds of the bite victims are young boys. It is theorized that one of the reasons that children are attacked so much more frequently than adults is because of their inability to understand a dog’s body language.

A stressed, aggressive, or fearful canine often displays warning behavior before biting. The dog may:

  • Bite at the air
  • Show bared fangs
  • Face the potential victim with a tall, widened stance
  • Stand with a slowly moving tail and stiff ears
  • Snarl or bark aggressively and repeatedly

In many situations, these warning signs are enough to alert an adult to the potential danger, and they can get away from the dog before being attacked. However, during a study published in the Journal of Nursing, Social Studies and Public Health, only one in three children recognized the behavioral signs of a fearful dog. Overall, the study’s participants only identified a dog’s emotion correctly 17% of the time. Without the ability to accurately recognize potentially dangerous situations, children frequently bear the brunt of an aggressive dog’s attack.

What Age Range Suffered the Most Fatal Dog Attacks in 2020?

Breaking down DogsBite.org’s data from 2020, the most recent year for which fatal U.S. dog bite statistics are available, we see that nearly one of three victims of fatal dog attacks throughout the year were aged 0-9. Young adults suffered multiple lethal attacks, with six victims falling into the 10-18 or 19-29 age rank. Three of these victims were fatally attacked by pit bulls.

Fatal U.S. Dog Attacks by Victim Age Range in 2020

Which Dog Breeds Caused the Most Fatalities From 2005 to 2020?

When the term “dog bite” comes to mind, you probably don’t think of your neighbor’s cuddly Pomeranian. Most life-threatening dog bites come from large, strong dog breeds. However, a dog’s size and bite force does not necessarily make it any more likely to be aggressive. An individual canine’s training (or lack thereof), environment, and temperament offer strong insights into their potential to attack. We were able to gather data on fatal dog attacks from 2005 through 2020 to see which breeds were responsible for the majority of lethal bite incidents.

As displayed in the graph below, pit bulls caused the most deaths over the sixteen-year timeframe by far, with 380 fatal attacks. With 51 lethal bite incidents over the same period, Rottweilers caused the second-most deaths. Nearly 62% of the victims were under the age of nine, with just over 36% of the bite victims falling into the age range of 0-2.

Fatal U.S. Dog Attacks By Breed from 2005 to 2020

Can Dog Attacks Be Avoided or Redirected?

It’s important to remember that not all dog attacks are preventable. While dogs do frequently alert their potential victim via their behavior, posturing, or by snarling aggressively, some canines may bite unexpectedly or with very little warning. If you become aware of a dog displaying threatening behavior, try your best to remain calm and encourage anyone near you to do the same. Dogs may instinctively attack if you respond fearfully. Never turn your back or run from the aggressive canine. Some dog trainers recommend making yourself appear bigger and avoiding eye contact.

If you can safely and calmly put distance between yourself and the canine, do so. If the dog attacks, yell for help right away. If additional passerby come to your aid, the dog may be scared off. An attacking canine will often clamp onto the first thing they bite. If you’re carrying something or wearing a loose article of clothing, try and redirect the dog’s attack with it. Should the dog bite you and latch on, don’t try and force it off you. It may not be dislodged, and your wounds may be worsened. Attempt to subdue the dog, thus encouraging it to release you.

When a dog bites, the victim should always visit a doctor or emergency room as soon as possible. If the dog has a virulent infection, such as rabies, even a minor bite wound may cause serious injury or death.

New Utah Bill Will Protect Pets in Domestic Violence Situations

While domestic violence is not a new issue, different organizations and members of society have brought to light the impact it can have on both the people and pets nearby. With the isolation brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns, the problems of domestic violence and animal cruelty were brought to the forefront.

 

 In many domestic violence situations, people often deal with partners who not only abuse them, but who also enjoy hurting the things that are meaningful to them, such as their pets. A new bill in Utah may add an extra layer to the beloved pets of survivors of domestic violence. According to a Boulder domestic violence defense attorney, “Every year in the United States, more than 10 million men and women become victims of domestic violence.” Because of how common pet ownership is, this bill is important for many leaving an abusive situation. 

 

The Protection of Animal Amendments bill for the 2022 Legislative Session allows people to add their pets to their protective orders upon leaving an abusive relationship. The House approved the bill by a 69-2 vote. According to Utah Rep., Angela Romero, “I know so many people who their pets are their world, you know. And so I want to make sure that I’m providing that security for a lot of these individuals trying to leave that situation.” 

Hopefully, the rest of the states will follow Utah’s lead and introduce a similar bill as this is extremely beneficial for survivors of domestic violence and their pets everywhere. Learn more about how tense households and divorce can affect pets, specifically dogs, here.

How to Train Your Dog to Ride in a Motorcycle Sidecar

When driving down a busy road, it’s hard not to notice a dog riding shotgun as a passenger. If the dog happens to be riding in the sidecar of a motorcycle, that usually requires a double take. If you prefer to ride a motorcycle than drive your car, there are ways to include your four-legged friend on your future road trips. One of these ways is to add a sidecar to your two wheeled vehicle. If you’re interested in learning how to train your dog to safely ride along in a sidecar, keep reading!

 

Before You Start Training

It’s important not to make this process stressful for the dog in the beginning. Do not immediately strap the dog in and think you’re “good to go”. Being immediately restrained in a new environment can be terrifying for an animal and immediately create a sense of resentment. The end goal of this training is to teach the dog that the sidecar is a safe place to be and riding along is a fun activity.

 

Training can happen at any age, but it’s best to start early as puppies are open to new learning experiences. Before you get started, make sure you have these supplies on hand:

  • Treats
  • Canine Safety Harness 
  • Dog Safety Goggles

How to Train Your Dog to Ride in a Sidecar

Step 1: Introduce your dog to the sidecar

With the motorcycle turned off and in a safe, non-busy parking lot, lead your dog to the sidecar with treats. By doing this, the dog will associate the sidecar with tasty treats and will be happy to get in.

Step 2: Switch on the motorcycle

After the dog is comfortable and seated, simply turn on the motorcycle without moving so he/she can get used to the noise and feel the vibrations. According to the team of Lexington motorcycle accident attorneys at Gary C. Johnson, Attorneys at Law, P.S.C., “… A major downside to riding motorcycles is that the injuries from a potential accident can be devastating.” It’s important to take every precaution before getting on the open road to ensure there is minimal chance for a traffic accident.

Step 3: Build the dog’s confidence

While seated in the side car, continue to give the dog praise and treats. At this point, practice driving at low speeds in an abandoned parking lot to get the dog used to the motions. During this time gauge the dog’s reaction. If they seem fearful, take notice of how long they can be in the sidecar and in motion before they seem uncomfortable. 

Step 4: Focus on short rides initially

Build up the length of rides over time instead of immediately planning a long road trip. Quick cruises around the neighborhood or in empty parking lots gives the dog time to get used to riding in the sidecar. During this time, the dog should be strapped in and wearing their goggles to associate these items with riding in the sidecar.

 

For this type of training, it’s important to be patient and understand that it will take time for your dog to be comfortable with this new form of transportation. If you force your dog into this new situation with little to no preparation, this could result in a serious motorcycle or car accident in the future. If you find yourself involved in an accident while driving, reach out to Gary C. Johnson, a Lexington personal injury lawyer or an experienced attorney in your area.

Keeping Your Dog Happy & Comfortable on New Year’s Eve

Believe it or not, 2021 is nearly over and New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. Perhaps you’re looking forward to a day full of festivities, celebrating the arrival of 2022 with good friends and family. For many people, New Year’s Eve is a time of joy and excitement. However, your family’s pets may not be as fond of the constant fireworks, horns, and other loud noises that inevitably accompany New Year celebrations. Like humans, dogs can experience anxiety, and New Year’s Eve can potentially be a challenging holiday for your four-legged companion.

When they are scared, dogs are oftentimes driven to seek shelter. There is an increased chance of pets escaping during the holiday. They may do so because of changes to their normal routine, fear of disruptive noises, or the presence of large groups of unfamiliar strangers. To help you keep your beloved pet happy and safe during a New Year’s Eve celebration, we put together the following list of tips.

1. Exercise Your Dog During the Day

To help your dog stay relaxed during the evening, when there will be the most noise and excitement, exercise your pet during the day. Take your dog on a normal walk, then go for a little extra distance or add some playtime to the routine. If your dog is a bit more tired out than usual, they may be more relaxed at night.

Although the majority of fireworks occur at night, people may be tempted to test their firework kits during the day. Since a loud or unexpected noise may startle your dog, it’s important to keep them on a lease if you’re going on a walk. Before leaving the house, make sure your pet’s collar and GPS tracker are secured, so that you can find them if they get frightened and run off.

2. Create a Comfortable Space for Your Pet

Unless you’re walking your dog, it’s best to keep your pet inside throughout the day. If you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve gathering, plan ahead and move your dog to an isolated room. Fill the room with familiar items, such as toys or blankets, and be sure to leave sufficient food and water. Make sure that your guests know not to go into the room you’ve designated as a safe space, so that they don’t accidently set your dog loose.

If you’re planning on going to a party or leaving for the evening, ask a trusted friend or family member if they can take care of your pet. Ideally, you want to have your dog spend the night with someone that has more relaxed holiday plans.

3. Keep Your Pet Out of Trouble

During the New Year’s Eve holiday, there may be unfamiliar beverages, foods, and items around that your dog might want to investigate. To keep your furry friend healthy and safe, be sure to protect them from hazards such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Avocados
  • Milk
  • Caffeine
  • Salty snacks
  • Meat with bones
  • Sparklers & fireworks

Remember that the stress of noise and over-stimulation may make your pet more restless or aggressive. It’s a good idea to keep your dog engaged throughout the day, perhaps with a new toy, to reduce the risk of incidents.

4. Spend Time With Your Dog

Even if you’re busy planning for an event or party, try to spend quality time with your pet on New Year’s Eve. They are likely to be stressed and frightened, and spending time with you can help them stay calm and relaxed. Try and maintain your everyday routine, while making sure to keep your dog engaged and active. You might even consider inviting a few of your fellow pet owners over to have a small, dog-friendly party that you and your furry friend can enjoy!

Enjoy a Low-Stress, Pet-Friendly New Year’s Eve

We hope that this list of suggestions helps you and your beloved pet enjoy a relaxing holiday. Remember to do your best to tire your dog out and keep them active throughout the day, so they can hopefully snooze right through the evening’s festivities!

Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Dog

Welcoming a dog into your home can bring you and your loved ones considerable joy. Research indicates that adding a pet to your family can improve your mental and physical health. Some studies even indicate that dog owners may have happier, long lives. However, bringing a new pet into your household can take time and patience. Particularly if you’ve never had a dog before, the adoption process can seem intimidating or confusing. To help you find the perfect four-legged companion, we’ve put together this guide to adoption.

Are You Ready to Welcome a Dog Into Your Family?

If you or a family member are considering welcoming a dog into your family but haven’t quite made up your mind yet, here are some important factors to consider.

  • Is your current house or apartment suitable for a pet?
  • How does your social life and work schedule impact your ability to care for a dog?
  • Will the people you live with or around react positively to your new dog?
  • Are you committed to taking care of your furry friend, no matter the cost?
  • Do you have the patience and free time to train and socialize a dog?

Take your time to think over these questions and be honest with yourself about whether you currently have the capability to take care of an adopted pet. Your dog should be a valued member of your family, and it’s important that their basic needs are met. If you’re confident that you can provide a stable and loving environment, then there’s almost certainly a rescue organization nearby that can help you find the perfect companion.

What Kind of Dog Are You Looking For?

No two dogs are alike. To ensure that you and your companion are compatible, it’s important to know exactly what you and your family members are looking for. If you have young children, you may want to look into smaller, more docile dog breeds. For example, a beagle or bulldog may fit your family’s needs. If you’re looking for a dog to take on long hikes and outdoor adventures, a high-energy breed such as a Siberian Husky or Australian Shepherd may be the perfect addition to your home.

Although specific dog breeds have gained stereotypes over the years, it’s important to remember that every dog is different. Rather than selecting a dog solely for its breed or physical attributes, be sure to meet the dog at the shelter so you can get a sense of its personality.

What Supplies Will You Need?

Keeping your pup happy and healthy requires supplies beyond simple necessities, such as food and water. To be completely prepared for the arrival of your new companion, we recommend acquiring:

  • Bowls for food and water
  • Resilient toys
  • A dog toothbrush and toothpaste
  • A comb or brush
  • Poop baggies and a scooper
  • A baby gate (if you want to restrict areas of the home)
  • House training potty pads
  • A nail clipper

If you have an idea of your ideal dog’s size or breed, you can also acquire a collar, dog bed, and appropriately sized crate. The shelter you adopt from or veterinarian that checks your new pet over may recommend a specific brand or type of dog food, so it’s best to check with them before buying food.

How Does the Adoption Process Typically Proceed?

You’ve prepared your home, answered the key questions, and convinced your loved ones to welcome a furry companion into the family. Now it’s time to figure out where you’d like to adopt from. It’s usually quite easy to start with an online search. If you have a specific dog breed in mind, you can peruse the dog lists of shelters near you. You can also visit one or more of the local shelters in person. Research the operating hours of your local organizations and pick a good time to go in.

Depending on where you’re located, adopting a dog may take a few hours or a few weeks. Certain shelters require a home visit, so the workers can view the dog’s living environment firsthand. Others may ask you for references or a veterinarian contact, though the latter is only likely if you already have an animal in the home. To help speed up the adoption process, call or message the shelter to request an application and information on their requirements.

Creating a Comfortable Home for Your Pet

Once you’ve completed the adoption process, it’s time to bring your new family member home for the first time! Try and be patient as the dog adjusts to his or her surroundings. Pushing a frightened or uncomfortable dog to socialize can have negative results. Research suggests that a scared dog is most likely to bite or act aggressively, and you don’t want to enhance that risk. By showing love and patience, you’ll be able to forge an unbreakable connection that will last for years to come!

What am I Liable for as a Dog Owner in New Jersey?

Owning a dog is one of the highlights of life for many people. A dog is a companion, a protector, and a trusted friend that becomes family. According to a news report, it’s estimated that just under a third of New Jersey residents own a dog. But as enjoyable as it is being a dog owner, it can also come with a large amount of responsibility. As the owner, you are responsible for their safety, their behavior, and their interactions with other people – this includes dog bites and aggressive behavior. If you are a new pet parent, it’s important to understand the legalities that come with being a dog owner. Learn more below about the New Jersey laws for dog owners and how they apply to different situations. 

Q: What Happens if My Dog Bites Someone?

Like most states, New Jersey has a “strict liability” law when it comes to dog owners. If your dog bites someone who was legally on public or private property, the owner will be held liable in a civil lawsuit. Also, if the victim’s bite(s) required medical care, the owner may have to pay for the damages of the injuries as well. According to a Jersey City dog bite lawyer from Brady, Brady and Reilly, LLC, “A dog attack can be violent, leading to severe physical injuries and emotional trauma for a survivor.” It doesn’t matter if the owner knew if the dog had been aggressive before or not, they will still be responsible for their dog’s actions.

Q: What is Considered Negligence by a Dog Owner?

Dog bites are not the only way that our furry friends can injure a human. There are many situations in which a dog can cause an accident, such as chasing a motorcycle in the middle of traffic or charging towards a person and knocking them over. In these types of situations, the strict liability rules do not apply. But if the victim can prove that the injuries were caused by the owner’s negligence, they may be able to receive compensation for their injuries. To prove negligence, the victim needs to prove that the owner had a duty to control the dog’s behavior, the owner failed to meet that duty, and failing to meet this duty resulted in the injury. This type of claim needs to be filed within two years of the incident.

Q: What Do I Do if My Dog Has Been Labeled as ‘Dangerous’?

After a dog has been determined to be dangerous after a serious unprovoked attack, the state of New Jersey has several requirements for the owner. These requirements include getting a special license, putting up warning signs around their property, and keeping the dog in a locked enclosure or contained with a strong leash/muzzle. If the court finds out that the dog has attacked another person or animal, the dog will have to be put down. 

Becoming a dog owner is much more than taking the animal for walks, buying it toys, and playing with it. It’s important to understand that you are taking on the responsibility of caring for the animal, as well as the consequences of their behavior. 

Tips For Taking Your Dog Out In Public

When you bring a new dog home, it’s only natural to want to take it out and show the world. After all, who else wouldn’t want to see your precious pet? While this can all be very exciting, when it comes to your pet and the public there are some things that you might want to keep in consideration to keep you, your pup, and other people out of trouble. Here are some basic tips to help your dog’s first few times out in the world be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Keep Them On A Leash

Although everyone wishes that their dog be so well trained that they can follow their owner everywhere without a leash, the hard truth is that rarely is this the case. No matter how cool you think you look with your untethered dog at your side, it’s unsafe for both your dog and others. You never know when a leash might come in handy, such as saving your dog from being hit by a car, keeping it away from mean dogs and people, and many other precarious situations. When you’re in an unpredictable environment, the safest course is to always have your dog on a leash, especially if the dog isn’t used to being in public or around a lot of people. 

Have A Doggy To-Go Bag 

One thing that a lot of people don’t realize about dogs when they first get them is that it’s a lot like having a baby. You wouldn’t take your baby anywhere without making sure you have the necessary food, water, diapers, and other supplies, would you? The same goes for your pup. If you’re bringing your dog along and don’t know how long you’ll be, it’s important to always carry a small to-go bag dedicated to your furry friend. Some of the essentials should include a leash, water and something to drink out of, treats, dog bags for accidents, and even one of their favorite toys. Now, you and your dog are ready to take on the world together, and you can rest assured knowing they have just about everything they need to be comfortable. 

Make Sure Wherever You’re Going Is Dog-Friendly 

With a dog at your side, it’s important to remember that you may not always be welcome into every establishment or home. Regardless if your dog is well-mannered, some places have strict no-pet policies, or people just might not be comfortable having a dog in their home. To avoid having to leave your dog outside (which you should never do) or get yourself in trouble, double-check online or communicate with friends to make sure that everywhere you plan on going is dog-friendly. This small step will help you avoid any awkward or dangerous situations. Now, you can plan accordingly, and go about your day. 

Socialize In Small Steps 

Especially if your dog isn’t accustomed to new people or busy places, it’s imperative that you socialize them before putting them in any environment that they might find threatening. If you don’t, your dog might become unpredictable, aggressive, and you might find yourself sitting across the table from a dog bite injury lawyer, which nobody wants to deal with To steer clear of any legal drama, before exposing your dog to the chaos of the outside world, you should try to socialize them in steps. Once they are comfortable around you and whoever they are normally around, start introducing them to your friends by asking them to come over. Then, start taking your dog to different yet still controlled places like a dog park or someone else’s house. Work your way up before taking them onto a busy street. This way, they are much less likely to feel overwhelmed and act out in fear. The American Kennel Club has some great tips on how to socialize your puppy here

Be Considerate Of Others 

Chances are, you less likely to run into any problems if you, the dog owner, are always being considerate of others. Regardless of how adorable, well-behaved, or lovable your pooch is, it’s crucial to remember that not everyone is going to love them as much as you do. Some people may be afraid of dogs, have an allergy, or don’t feel safe with their young children around them. In fact, in a study by Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research, “Allergies to dogs and cats affect 10%–20% of the population worldwide and is a growing public health concern as these rates increase.”  Therefore, you should not be letting your dog be running amuck or expecting others to be inconvenienced because you decided to bring a dog. If you’re with your dog, you should be one of the most conscientious people around because you’re responsible not only for your actions but your dog’s as well. So, if you don’t think your dog is ready to handle different places and people, it’s best to not force it.

Make Sure They Are Well Exercised Beforehand 

If you already know that your dog has a lot of energy, taking them to a place with endless stimulation like out in public is bound to work them up. Like people, dogs get excited, and when they do, they aren’t always on their best behavior. On top of that, them having an excess amount of energy doesn’t help, either. To make you and everyone else that you’re around lives easier, before taking your dog anywhere, make sure that they are properly exercised. Take them for a walk, play some fetch, or whatever it is you do to burn off some of their energy. While it may not solve everything, an exercised dog is typically more docile and easier to manage than one that is already wound up. However, the American Kennel Club suggests that you check with your local expert or breeder to learn what the appropriate amount of exercise is for your dog’s breed. 

Put Your Dog First 

Your dog is your responsibility. They rely on you fully to feed them, take care of them, and make them feel safe. The latter especially applies when taking your dog to new places and experiences. If you decide to bring your dog places with you, it’s no longer all about you or what you want/need to get done. You need to be aware of how your dog might be feeling at all times and what you can do to make them as comfortable as possible. The last thing you want to do is have them associate going outside of the house with traumatic or uncomfortable experiences because you weren’t considerate of their needs. 

Don’t Break Your Routine

At first, when a dog starts going it out in public, it may seem like everything it’s learned and been trained on has gone out the window. That’s okay and usually totally normal. However, now it’s up to you to teach them that all of the rules you have established still apply when you are outside of the house. Essentially, all this takes is patience and practice, and your dog will eventually get the hang of it.

Now, it’s time for you to try! Remember, don’t rush anything and always think about your dog first in public settings. With some time, you and your dog will become model examples for how a dog and owner should be in public. Have fun! 

How To Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

When people see a dog, it’s not uncommon for their first reaction is to reach out and pet it, and with almost 90 million dogs in the US, it’s hard not to. Although more likely than not, the dog is friendly, that still isn’t always the best idea. It’s crucial to remember that, dogs get scared too. So when a person they don’t know rushes up to them and reaches to touch them, they might take it as a threat and become aggressive to defend themselves, possibly resulting in a dog bite. So, here are some helpful tips to safely approach and interact with an unfamiliar dog. 

Ask Permission From the Owner

If you see a dog that you want to pet or get close to, the first thing you should always do is ask the owner if it’s okay. Not only is this the polite thing to do, but the owner is the best person to ask whether the dog is friendly enough to approach. After all, they know their dog best, and they have nothing to gain by letting someone near their aggressive dog with the potential of them being bitten. Plus, as noted by the American Kennel Association, the dog might have a sore spot or an area they don’t like to be touched that the owner knows about. Also, if there is no owner, such as if the dog is tied up outside of a store, it’s best that you leave it alone. You can’t know a dog from its body language alone and it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Let the Dog Come to You

If the owner says it’s okay to greet their dog, don’t sprint up into the dog’s space. Move closer and then stop, allowing the dog to come to you in its own time. Doing this helps show the dog that you aren’t a threat, and allowing them to investigate you will make them all the more comfortable. To really show the dog that you’re a friend, allow them to pick up on your scent. Although it’s rumored that the best way to do this is through the “Sniff Test” and sticking your hand out so they can smell it, this is no longer advised by professionals and many dog owners. 

Know Where To Safely Touch

If everything so far has gone well and it’s time to physically touch the dog, be sure to do it as calmly and gently as possible. Stick to the dog’s neck, back, or chest, and avoid touching their head. Even better, ask the owner where their favorite place to be pet is to score some serious brownie points with the dog. If you follow these petting methods, it’s likely nothing unexpected will happen. However, the same can’t be said if you come running up and throwing your hands around a dog, getting in its face, and being overall intrusive. 

Anticipate the Unexpected

Unfortunately, even if you do everything right, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, dogs and even their owners can be unpredictable, which can result in serious harm. Some situations might even lead you to require a Riverside personal injury lawyer. To avoid this, be respectful, be smart, and remember that dogs aren’t just there for your pleasure.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Car

For many, there’s nothing better than driving around with your furry best friend in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, this activity can turn dangerous very quickly. Having an animal in the car can lead to major distractions for the driver that could result in a serious accident on the road. As stated by a Lowell car accident lawyer, “An auto accident can cause serious to catastrophic injuries to those involved.”

According to Pet Pro Supply Co, 60% of dog owners have driven while distracted by their pets as passengers. These distractions can be magnified by a dog that is loose in the vehicle or displaying anxious behaviors. Below, we will discuss how to keep your dog (and yourself!) safe while riding in the car. 

  • Buckle up: Restrain your dog using a harness or a dog seatbelt to prevent them from roaming around the moving vehicle. This can prevent instances of your dog jumping in your lap or climbing on you while you’re operating the car.
  • Check the car temperature: On a 75 degree day, the temperature inside of a vehicle can go up to 100 degrees. Avoid leaving your pup inside a car as they can experience heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and in some instances, death.
  • Use barriers: Limit your dog’s space in the car without using a dog seat belt or a leash by setting up a divider in the car. The divider can block the dog from accessing the driver and passenger seat, but still be able to stretch out and relax in the back part of the car.
  • Take breaks: Plan breaks on your drive for your dog to get out and stretch their legs. This can include local dog parks or safe areas away from busy roads. This can help your dog get out any extra energy and help them relax during the ride. 
  • Keep front seats for humans only: Make the front part of the car a “humans only” zone. Your dog will be less likely to jump in your lap or cause you to take your eyes off the road for long periods of time if they are confined to the backseat.

Driving with your dog doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many ways, including dog seat belts and crates,  that can help you and your dog stay safe while enjoying a ride together.

Ask an Attorney: What You Need To Know About Dog Bite Liability

We asked Greg Colburn, a top-rated dog bite lawyer, a few frequently asked questions about dog bite liability. Greg reminds us that although we love our furry friends, it’s always important to remember to take all responsible acts necessary to ensure the safety of anyone that comes into contact with your dog. All dogs are capable of causing serious injury to people, especially children.

What if your dog injures someone – by a bite or by knocking him or her down?

If your dog injures a person by biting, you are responsible for all of the harm suffered by the bite victim.  The exceptions to this rule exist when the person was trespassing or provoking your dog.  Three causes of action are available to the dog bite victim, as discussed further below.

If your dog knocks a person down, you may be responsible but establishing that type of civil claim can be much harder than a dog bite claim because strict liability does not typically attach; rather, the victim needs to establish that you were negligent, as discussed further below.

Does homeowner’s liability insurance and/or umbrella policy cover injuries committed by your dog?

Typically, yes, homeowners insurance and umbrella policies provide coverage if your dog bites a person.  Some policies provide coverage exclusions based upon dog breeds (discussed further below).

I am still surprised at the number of dog owners that are unaware that their homeowner’s insurance provides coverage for dog bite claims.  When we are hired by dog bite victims and make initial contact with dog owners, a good number of dog owners refuse to provide homeowners insurance because they don’t think they have “dog bite insurance”.

An example of liability protection language from a homeowners policy includes, “We will pay damages which an insured person becomes legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury or property damage arising from an occurrence to which this policy applies…”  In other words, if a homeowner’s dog bites a person and, as a result, the homeowner is legally liable for the harm, then the liability protection afforded by homeowners insurance applies and protects the homeowner/dog owner.

The homeowners insurance will pay for a personal injury settlement or judgment up to the limit of coverage, and the homeowners insurance will pay for a legal defense if a lawsuit is commenced.

What Liability Does Umbrella Coverage Provide?

Umbrella coverage typically provides the same type of liability coverage as primary homeowners insurance.  However, many homeowners are unaware that for umbrella coverage to apply, the primary homeowners insurance must have minimum coverage limits.

For example, some insurance companies require homeowners to carry a minimum of $500,000 bodily injury liability protection before the homeowners’ umbrella coverage applies.  In such an instance, if the homeowner only has $300,000 of bodily injury liability protection on their homeowners insurance, they would be uninsured for damages between $300,000 to $500,000 – in other words, the homeowner would have $200,000 of personal exposure.

In addition to homeowners and umbrella insurance, renters insurance policies can also provide coverage for dog bite claims.  Coverage language may state, “If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies [Liability Coverages], caused by an occurrence, we will:  1.  pay up to our limit of liability for damages for which the insured is legally liable; and 2. provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice.

Notably, some homeowner and renters insurance policies exclude liability coverage for injuries caused by certain dog breeds, including but not limited to:   pit bulls; chow chows, Doberman pinschers; Rottweilers; mastiffs; German shepherds; wolf-hybrids; Rhodesian ridgebacks; and, Akitas.

Legal protections and compensation rights of the injured person.

The legal protections for dog bite victims include two overarching categories:  (1) protection from future attacks through regulatory actions by local animal control; and, (2) civil claims for injuries and damages.

 Victims of dog bites and attacks need to report dog bites to local animal control to try to prevent the dog from biting the victim again, or other members of the community.  If animal control doesn’t know that a dog bite has occurred, then animal control cannot do anything to educate the dog owners, enforce dog safety regulations, and prevent future dog bites and attacks.

 Far too many times have I been retained by a dog bite victim with serious bodily injuries only to learn through investigation that the attacking dog was a repeat offender; however, none of the dog’s previous victims had notified animal control.

In such circumstances, not only does the failure to notify animal control make it more difficult for animal control to take action against the dog owners and dog (e.g. issue a dangerous dog declaration that imposes restrictions on the dog owners, like providing a proper enclosure, ensuring muzzling, and carrying bodily injury insurance), but it can also create hurdles for the dog bite victim when seeking compensation for injuries and damages.

Dog bite victims have the right to monetary compensation for all available damages supported by the claim.  These damages include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future lost earnings
  • Past and future physical pain and suffering
  • Past and future emotional pain and suffering
  • Past and future disability
  • Scarring and/or disfigurement
  • Past and future loss of enjoyment of life
  • Past and future inconvenience

Dog bite cases are different from typical personal injuries, like car accident cases, for one major reason:  Dog bites are physical assaults.

When a car hits another car, two inanimate objects collide with the collision causing injuries to the people inside the cars.  The people, occupants of the cars, never hit each other personally.  One person is not attacking another person.

When a dog attacks a human being, a living breathing animal is assaulting that person.  The dog is baring its teeth.  The dog is growling.  The dog is staring right at the person.  Most importantly, the dog’s mouth, its teeth, cause injury by tearing the person’s flesh, and in some instances removing flesh and limbs.

Scarring, disfigurement, disability, and emotional pain and suffering are common injuries suffered by dog bite victims.

Dog bites cause scars that are jagged, raised, indented, uneven, and discolored.  Common areas of the body that are bitten by dogs include face; hands, arms, feet, and legs.

Facial wounds leave lasting scars that often make the dog bite victim feel disfigured.  A bite to the cheek, lip, or orbital area, leaves the victim with a permanent reminder of the attack – every day the victim looks in the mirror the person looking back is the person who existed before the dog bite.

Hands are generally bony structures, particularly susceptible to crushing and tearing injuries.  Dog bites can leave thumbs and fingers unusable.  Or, as I have seen, dogs can simply remove a thumb or a finger with one bite.

The nature of a dog bite attack necessarily leads to an increased probability of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A diagnosis of PTSD requires symptoms in four areas:  re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance of trauma reminders, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and increased arousal.

Many dog bite victims relive the attack over and over without the ability to push the memory from their thoughts.  They suffer nightmares and even daymares.

Dog bite victims avoid public places, or places and gatherings where they believe dogs will be, such as parks, homes of friends and family, and even areas within their own households.

As a result, dog bite victims suffer from hypervigilance.  They tend to be on constant lookout for dogs which they now perceive as threats to their safety.

What is that person legally entitled to? and, What is the compensation based on?

The dog bite victim is entitled to the sum of money that will make her whole.  In other words, an amount of compensation that will place her in as good a position as she would have been but for the dog bite.

As discussed above, the damages available to a dog bite victim include multiple categories.  Each dog bite victims claim is unique.

For comparison, the amount of money necessary to fully compensate a scar on my face from a dog bite is worth less than the same scar on my wife’s face.  First, the reality is that generally speaking the value of a scar is not viewed the same for men and women.  Second, I already have scars on my face from sports and work injuries.  My wife’s face is unscathed.  Adding an imperfection to an already imperfect face is different than marring a clean slate.

Further, how the dog bite affects a victim’s ability to work, engage in relationships, and enjoy life must all be taken into account.  I represented a chef who suffered a dog bite injury to her right thumb.  She was right hand dominant.  Because of her profession and the nature of her injuries, she was unable to work.  She not lost earnings for months, but her career path was interrupted, and her ability to enjoy her life as a chef was negatively impacted.  The ripple effects of a dog bite are numerous and ever reaching.

What should you, as an owner of the dog, do if this happens? 

 If your dog bites another person, the first thing you should do is check to see if that person is okay.  You should act like a human being.  You should offer assistance, call 9-1-1 if necessary.

You should ensure that proof of all vaccinations is made available to the dog bite victim, and in particular, proof of rabies vaccination.

You should notify your insurance carrier, whether you have homeowners insurance or renters insurance.  You have a contractual obligation to notify your insurer of potential claims to allow your insurer to conduct a full and timely investigation.

Further, many homeowners insurance policies include two coverages that can cover the loss:  Bodily Injury Liability; and, Medical Payments.  Medical Payments coverage is a no fault benefit that can pay for the dog bite victim’s medical bills up to the applicable coverage limit, which is typically in the range of $1,000 to $5,000.

 If you believe that your dog did nothing wrong then you should want your insurance company to immediately investigate the claim to ensure that you are provided a proper defense.

If your dog viciously attacked a person and that person was not trespassing on your property or provoking your dog, then as the owner you need to take responsibility.  You need to cooperate with animal control.  You to need to step back and objectively determine whether your dog can safely exist around people.  You need to consider all measures available to ensure that your dog never bites again, including:

  • Animal behavior assessment and training
  • Muzzle wearing
  • Limit exposure to strangers and children
  • Ensure that yourdog is always properly restrained whether by leash or physical enclosure
  • Place warning signs on your property to notify visitors
  • Ensure that delivery drivers (e.g. Amazon, FedEx, UPS, USPS) are not put in harm’s way when trying to deliver a package to your home

What can you expect if the injured person files a suit against you?

If the dog bite victim files a lawsuit against a dog owner for a dog bite, the dog owner can expect to be involved in litigation for at least six to twelve months.

The dog owner will be served with a summons and complaint, likely at the dog owner’s home.  This means that a process server (a person) will visit the dog owner’s home, knock on the door, and hand the lawsuit to the dog owner.  Being served can cause fear and panic in the person being served as many people have no idea what is happening.

If served, the dog owner should immediately notify their homeowners insurer or renters insurer.  The insurance company will assign an attorney to defend the case at no additional cost to the dog owner.

The dog owner will be required to answer written questions called interrogatories, and produce a litany of documents in response to requests for production.  The dog owner will have to provide personal background information as well as information about the dog.  Typically, vet records must be produced, along with any records from behavioral training or behavioral assessments.

The dog owner can expect to have their deposition taken.  Meaning, the attorney for the dog bite victim will have the opportunity to ask the dog owner questions under oath.  If the dog owner lies during deposition, the dog owner will be guilty of perjury.  The dog owner’s deposition typically lasts between two and three hours.

After significant discovery has occurred during litigation, the parties oftentimes attempt to settle the case by way of mediation.  Dog owners have no say in whether a case settles or not.  The decision to settle a dog bite victim’s claim rests solely with the insurer.

If the case doesn’t settle, then the dog owner should expect a trial.  The dog owner will likely be required to attend trial, which can last as short as a few days or as a long as a few weeks.  This means that the dog owner will need to miss work and make plans for childcare as needed.

Dog owners should know that dog bite victims are not limited to recovering only the amount of insurance available.  For example, if a dog bites a 10-year child’s arm causing injuries that require reconstructive surgery, result in permanent life-long physical scars and emotional trauma, a homeowners insurance policy with only $100,000 of bodily injury liability is insufficient.

In the above example, the child’s injuries and damages are worth significantly more than $100,000.  The dog owner needs to be prepared that their personal assets are exposed to collection.  Meaning, the settle the case or satisfy a civil judgment, the dog owner may need pay money above their insurance limits.

We recently settled a case for a child.  The dog owners had two applicable homeowners insurance policies that provided total coverage of $200,000.  To settle the case, the dog owners had to make a personal payment of $25,000 cash.

What about the one-bite law versus “dangerous dog?”

The prevailing rule in the United States is that dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by dog bites.  In other words, in most states, dog owners do not get a “free bite”.

The one-bite rule is followed in some form by sixteen states.  In these states, dog owners are civilly liable for dog bite injuries if the dog owner knew or reasonably should have known that their dog had dangerous or vicious tendencies.

In many states, three causes of action exist for a dog bite victim versus the dog’s owner:  (1) statutory strict liability; (2) common law strict liability; and, (3) negligence.

Strict liability means the dog owner is responsible, or liable, without regard to whether the dog owner was negligent.  Strict liability is an acknowledgment that dogs, no matter the breed, are all capable of biting or attacking a human being.

Strict liability acknowledges that dogs are animals that pose an inherent risk of causing harm.  A dog can inflict the same severity of injury and damage as many weapons; however, a dog chooses its target and a dog decides when to attack.

Statutory strict liability is governed by the laws of the state.  Typically, the owner of a dog is liable if their dog bites a person who is not trespassing and not provoking the dog.  In such a case, the dog’s history of aggression or bites is irrelevant.  The owner of a dog with no bite history or history of aggression is strictly liable for harm caused by the first dog bite.

Common law strict liability, which is established through the courts, may also create a strict liability against the dog owners of “dangerous dogs”.  Common law strict liability applies when the owner of a dog knew or reasonably should have known that their dog had aggressive or vicious propensities likely to cause the injuries suffered. As an example, in Washington, the owner of such a dog is strictly liable as stated, “One who keeps a dog, who knows or reasonably should know that the dog has vicious or dangerous propensities likely to cause the injury complained of, has a duty to kill the animal or confine it.  Any injury caused by such an animal subject the owner to prima facie liability without proof of negligence.”  Arnold v. Laird, 24 Wn.App. 244, 246, 600 P.2d 662 (1979).

Negligence claims are what most people think of when they hear about personal injuries or torts.  Negligence is the failure to exercise ordinary care.  Negligence is classically defined as the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do some act that a reasonably careful person would have done under the same or similar circumstances.

For example, suppose a dog owner knows that his dog is prone to jumping up on people, including strangers.  The dog owner takes his dog to a street fair.  While at the street fair, the dog jumps up onto a child, knocks the child to the ground causing the child to hit its head and suffer serious injury.  The dog owner placed his dog – known to jump on people – in a situation that posed an increased risk of harm to people and then the dog owner failed to control his dog.  The dog owner was likely negligent and liable for the child’s injuries and damages.

About the Author: Greg Colburn

Greg Colburn

Greg Colburn is a top-rated personal injury lawyer that handles a variety of injury cases in Seattle, Bellevue, Issaquah, and surrounding areas of Washington. If you’ve suffered an injury from a dog, contact our Seattle dog bite lawyers for help regaining compensation for your injuries if you were attacked.