Dog bites are a relatively common occurrence, with more than 4.5 million people bitten in the U.S. every year. Dog bites can be particularly dangerous because of the bacteria they tend to carry in their mouths. One out of every five bite victims require medical attention for his or her injuries, constituting more than 800,000 hospital visits per year.
The urge to bite comes from many different sources, but general guidelines can help both children and adults avoid dog bites. When around dogs, always:
- Stay close to children. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Teach children, toddlers in particular, to be careful around animals.
- Avoid running past dogs. Dogs love to chase things, and it gives them a reason to be excited or aggressive.
- Avoid bothering a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Avoid reaching over or through a fence to pet a dog. The dog can see this as a threat to its territory and become aggressive.
- Remain calm if you are threatened by a dog. Speak calmly and firmly, avoid eye contact, and either stay still or back away slowly. Never run, scream, or yell.
Dog bites often fall under the principle of premises liability, meaning the owner is liable for damages if the dog causes harm to someone else. As a pet owner, there are several steps you can take to minimize the risk of a biting incident. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog owners should:
- Socialize your dog as a puppy to familiarize it with other animals and people. Gradual, regular exposure to new environments under controlled circumstances will help your dog adjust to new surroundings.
- Never put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
- Wait until your child is older to get a dog. Injuries are most common when children are under 4 years old, so it is wise to wait until your child is slightly older.
- Train your dog well. Simple commands like “sit” and “Stay” instill obedience and trust in dogs and people. Use a leash in public and avoid highly excitable games.
- Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and infectious diseases. How your dog feels will affect how it behaves, so overall health is crucial to your dog’s well-being.
- Neuter your pet. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite, according to several studies.
- Be a responsible owner. Obey leash laws, make sure gates and fences are secure, exercise your dog regularly, and spend time with your pet.
Children are especially susceptible to injuries due to their small stature, so it is doubly important they understand how to prevent dog bites. 359,223 children ages 1 to 14 were bitten by dogs between 2010 and 2012. Whether or not you have a dog, make sure your children are well-informed about the risks of dog bites and how to prevent them.
If you or a loved one was injured by a dog, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi are experienced in premises liability and can work to recover damages for you and your family.