Your dog biting another person may be one of your worst nightmares as a dog owner. On top of potentially causing serious injury, this type of incident can also lead to your dog being taken away from you.
As a dog owner, you know and love your dog. It’s important to understand the legal ramifications of a dog bite and to know how to react during those first stressful moments immediately following an attack. By educating yourself, you can become a more responsible dog owner and learn steps to take to prevent dog bites from happening in the first place.
Help the Victim
When your dog bites someone, you may feel shocked or panicked. But it’s important to remain calm. Escalating the conflict may cause your dog to attack the victim again, and it’s always better to be calm and polite.
Once you’ve confined your dog, do your part in making sure the victim gets the medical attention they need. Dog bite victims should always seek medical attention, even if the bite doesn’t seem serious. You can also offer to contact a loved one for them, and, depending on where you live, you may need to contact the police too.
Finally, make sure to exchange contact information with the victim, just as you would if you were involved in a car accident with another driver.
Obtain Your Dog’s Medical Records
As soon as possible, contact your veterinarian to get your dog’s medical records. This is primarily so you can show proof of your dog’s rabies vaccination history to the victim. Depending on where you live, you may be legally required to do so, but either way, knowing they don’t have to worry about rabies will help put the victim’s mind at ease.
Understand Your Legal Responsibilities
Dog bite laws vary immensely by state. Some states follow a “one-bite” rule, meaning that a dog owner will only be legally responsible for an attack if the dog bit someone previously. Other states, like California, follow a strict liability dog bite statute in which owners are financially responsible for dog bites regardless of negligence.
In any case, be aware that it is up to the victim to decide whether to pursue a lawsuit. While staying nice and polite, be sure not to admit fault. Make sure to check in with them after the attack to see how their recovery is going. Consider offering to pay their medical expenses up front to maintain goodwill and attempt to avoid a lawsuit.
Tips for Preventing Dog Bites
Of course, it’s best if your dog doesn’t bite people in the first place. And as a dog owner, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to prevent that from happening. Steps you can take to prevent a bite (or a second bite) include:
- Putting your dog through basic training, and continue training them throughout their life.
- Making sure your dog receives proper socialization from a young age. Work with your veterinarian and/or trainer to make sure this is done safely and effectively.
- Using positive reinforcement to discipline your dog rather than physical punishments.
- Learning about the common reasons dogs bite, as well as your dog’s particular body language clues. This will help you understand your dog and improve your ability to de-escalate situations.
- Keeping your dog’s vaccinations current, especially rabies.
- Warning others before allowing interaction, if you know your dog has fearful or aggressive tendencies.
- Keeping your dog restrained in social situations, with a short leash or an enclosure.
- Making sure any children you are responsible for know how to interact with dogs and aren’t left alone with a dog.
Following these step will help ensure your dog stays happy and healthy while preventing bites.