Every year in the U.S., more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. Though fatalities are rare, many are seriously injured, possibly sustaining lasting injuries such as broken bones, lacerations, disfigurements and nerve damage. Among the most at risk are children and senior citizens. Also, men are more likely to be bitten by dogs than women. Although not all dog bites are preventable, there are many things you can do to minimize the risk of serious injury from a dog attack. From the dog bite lawyers at Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, here are a few dos and don’ts for dog bite prevention:
- Spay or neuter your pet to reduce aggressiveness.
- Make sure any dog in your household is properly trained and socialized.
- Know the classic signs of aggression in dogs such as ears up and forward, fur on its back standing straight up, becoming stiff, barking, growling, showing teeth and lunging forward. Seek professional help for any aggressive behaviors you notice in your dog.
- Stand very still and be quiet if approached by an unfamiliar dog. If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball and remain motionless.
- Put items between you and an attacking dog, such as jackets, purses or book bags.
- Spay or neuter your own dog, and make sure it is socialized properly. Even with good training and socialization, a dog may attack, but this is far less likely to happen.
- Leave infants or small children unattended with dogs.
- Play aggressively with dogs.
- Pet a dog without letting it sniff your closed hand first.
- Look a dog directly in the eyes.
- Disturb a dog while it is sleeping, eating or nursing.
- Approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Chase a dog.
- Run away from a dog or scream.
- Do not leave children or small animals unattended with dogs. No matter how “good” a dog might be with children, children are not always similarly well-behaved with dogs. They often ignore warning signs from the dog, such as growling, baring teeth, stiffening up, fur standing straight up, and so on. These are all physical signals indicating that a dog wants to be left alone. Unfortunately, many children and adults alike ignore these signs and are bitten as a result. Most dogs do not bite without provocation or warning, so pay attention to the dog’s body language. You would never ignore the warning rattle sound of a rattlesnake, so why would you ignore growling and other warning signs from a dog?
- Do not approach or allow your children to approach strange dogs. This applies to all strange dogs. It doesn’t matter if the dog is in its own yard, is a stray, or is out on a walk with its owner.
- If a dog begins to chase you, do not run, scream, or chase it back. Instead stand still, turn away from the dog, and place an object such as a purse in between you and the dog. If a dog you do not know approaches you, but is not showing signs of aggression, remain calm and quiet. The dog will probably lose interest and go away. There have been numerous cases where off-leash dogs run up to dogs on leashes walking with their owner (the dog may be a stray, or have escaped from their own leash or yard, or is purposely being illegally allowed off-leash by its owner) and attacked the leashed dog. Train your dog to walk on leash without reacting to other dogs and, as a precaution, carry pepper spray in case of a dog attack. This will not permanently hurt the attacking dog, but it will stop them from attacking, and allow you to escape.
- Finally, do not provoke an attack. If a dog is acting aggressively, do not look it in the eye, since it may perceive your eye contact as a challenge. Never disturb a dog while it is eating, sleeping, or nursing its puppies.
As mentioned before, dog are animals, not toys. You would not provoke a human to attack by taking its food or throwing rocks at it when it approaches, so take the same care with a dog. If you are bitten by a dog, immediately wash and sanitize the wound and seek medical attention. Afterwards, call a personal injury attorney to find out what your rights are under the law.
Key Advice to Prevent Dog Bite Injury Cases
Phoenix is known for blistering summer heat. We all know the effect heat can have on people in the summer months, but many people don’t know how it impacts our furry friends. Our Phoenix dog bite lawyers see an increase in dog bite cases in warmer weather and want to issue some friendly advice for understanding how the heat affects your pets. We also will share how you can help prevent future dog bites within your family and community.
Changes Pets Can Exhibit During Hotter Months
Think back to how you react when you’re hot and unable to cool down. You experience a range of emotions, from grumpy and whiny to thirsty and downright irritable. Your pets are the same way.
Dogs and cats can’t cool down as efficiently as humans, mostly due to their fur coat and lack of sweat glands. This is why you see dogs panting and hanging around water when it’s hot; they’re just trying to keep cool! You may notice that your pet is more irritable and isn’t acting like usual. This is why it is very important to monitor young children around your outdoor pets.
You might assume your pets are fine around the kids – after all, they’ve never given you a reason to think otherwise. However, children have a tendency to unknowingly cause animals stress and anxiety that can result in dog aggression, especially when the heat is getting to the pet. Regardless of the child’s familiarity with the pet, they need to be supervised as they are less likely to notice warning signs from the dog before they are bitten. According to a study conducted by Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, more than 20 of the 84 dog bite cases evaluated were bites from a family pet. Additionally, 53 of 84 children were bitten in more than one area by a familiar or unfamiliar dog. Here are some more helpful tips for preventing dog bites with children.
After any walks or outside activities with your indoor pets, allow them time to cool down. If your pet is overheating, try to lure them to a doggy pool or turn on the sprinklers for a brief amount of time. This gives them cool grass to lay on and lower the temperatures of vital areas like the stomach and underarms.
Risks That Can Lead to an Increase of Dog Bite Injury Cases during Summer Months
Your family pet is protective of their territory and your family members. Children who are home during the summer months face increased risk of potential dog bites by other neighborhood pets. Your neighbor’s children can forget to close the gate, allowing their dogs to escape. Playing in the street poses a high threat to neighborhood dogs, fenced-in and loose. For this same reason, it is also important to contain dogs in another room when visitors are at the door. Many children may forget or be unable to do this, which can result in a dog escaping or causing bite injury to your children or guests.
What about Pets In Need of Rescue?
Rescues happen year-round for pets in need. They may be abandoned, in distress, hungry, or thirsty. Being bit during a rescue is not unheard of. If a bite breaks through the skin, there is great potential for infection.
To help prevent bites to the hands and arms, many rescue organizations use catch poles. These long poles with a neck collar allow them to keep animals at more than an arm’s length away from the body as they guide them to the vehicle for immediate medical attention. They also wear protective gloves on their hands to prevent bites from breaking the skin. This equipment allows rescuers to provide the animal in distress the care and attention it needs for rehabilitation. If you see a dog or any other animal in distress, contact animal control and wait for them to arrive rather than attempting the rescue yourself.
While there is no study proving that dog or cat bites increase during the summer months, do take the time to protect yourself and your children. This will lower your chances of needing a dog bite attorney. If you or your child was bitten by a dog, cat or any other animal, seek immediate medical attention. Medical treatment can help you fight infection or further complications. Then seek a dog bite lawyer near you to protect your rights.
Preventing Dog Bites With Children
The case of Mickey the pit bull and Kevin Vicente is one such case that comes to mind. While it is not clear what exactly happened, as four-year old Kevin Vicente was not supervised when he was playing in the yard with the dog, it has been reported that Mickey the dog, who was kept chained in a yard with minimal socialization and training, attacked when the child took his bone (or crossed into his path? Different articles report different ways that the events unfurled). Originally, the dog was to be euthanized, but after public protest and support for the dog, the judge ruled that Mickey would spend life in a sanctuary, never again allowed to be a family pet.
Supporters of the dog claimed that owner negligence was completely to blame for the attack. The child was left unsupervised with a dog that had known aggression issues (Mickey once killed a smaller dog that was left alone in his yard). Because this took place in Arizona, a strict liability state, Mickey’s owners should have been responsible for damages caused by the small dog’s death as well as damages for the child’s injuries. So far, no news about the legal fate of the owners has been made public.
There are many cases like this in the U.S. every year. The American Humane Society reports that an estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur annually. Of those:
- 885,000 require medical care.
- 94 percent of dog attacks involved intact male dogs.
- 25 percent of dog attacks involved chained dogs.
- 50 percent of dog attacks involved children under the age of twelve.
The insurance industry spends over $489 million each year on dog bite claims. There are no statistics available for the amount of money spent on legal proceedings for dog bite claims, but surely those are fairly high as well. Unfortunately, in many cases, when a child is bitten, the dog is euthanized for its owner’s negligence.
It is clear that something is amiss here. One well-known trainer even seems to think that dog bites are at “epidemic proportions in the U.S.” Well, if there is one thing we have learned from epidemics, it is that education leads to prevention. Here are a few things you can teach children right away to keep them safe from a dog bite:
- Avoid strange dogs. Don’t look a dog you don’t know in the eyes or approach it. If it follows you, do not run, but back away slowly until the dog loses interest.
- If a dog knocks you over, cover your head and neck with your arms and curl into a ball.
- Only pet a dog with permission from its owner.
- Don’t yell, run, hit or make sudden movements around dogs, as they can become excited or agitated and bite, even accidentally.
- Never pull a dog’s ears or tail, or try to climb on them.
- Don’t try to take a dog’s toys, bones or food away.
- Let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t disturb a resting dog.
- Never chase a dog or encourage them to wrestle with you. Most dogs bite each other when wrestling and playing, and a dog might not understand that this kind of play is not allowed in relation to humans.
Parents should be careful to never leave their young children alone with dogs, even those that have never had an aggressive incident. Become educated in your dog’s body language so that you can remove your child if the dog begins to show signs of stress. If your child accompanies you to a dog park, do not allow him or her to run around with the dogs. When dogs are playing as a group, they may chase the child and knock them over, possibly even biting and nipping them due to their excitement. Remember that dogs are animals and play a lot differently than people and that, not only are you responsible for the wellbeing of your pet, but you are also liable in many states for the safety of anyone else who comes into contact with it.
Most dog bite cases involving children are not like the random attack in the “Cat Saves Boy from Dog” video. Many occur in the blink of an eye and could have been prevented.
The attorneys at Skousen, Gulbrandsen and Gulbrandsen have more than 50 combined years of experience practicing personal injury law. We can represent you in a wide variety of injury cases, including dog bites, auto accidents and dangerous products. If you’ve been injured, contact us today to for a free legal consultation.
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