Being bitten by a dog is a frightening, and sometimes deadly, experience. Every year, more than 4.7 million dog bite incidents occur in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Half of these will require medical attention and as many as 386,000 will require emergency medical attention. In 2015, according to Dogbite.org, 34 bites resulted in death. If you or someone you know has been injured in a dog bite accident, consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Dogs bite for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, they are scared or feel threatened. They also may bite in a stressful situation, and while you may not perceive the situation as stressful, they do. They can also bite or nip when they are startled, such as when a child grabs them from behind or even if they’re not feeling well. If you think about it, humans have a multitude of ways to communicate discomfort, but dogs are very limited. A growl or a nip is the only way they have to show their displeasure. Unfortunately, a nip can turn into a bite and a bite – or even scarier, a mauling, is unacceptable.
Any time you are around around a dog you do not know, you must keep these triggers in mind. This is important even if the dog’s owner is a close friend or family member or the person insists that the dog is friendly. Of course the dog is friendly to them – they are their dog! But not all dogs are friendly to others and many are protective of their owners.
Be mindful of the breed of dog. It would be wonderful to be able to think and treat all dogs equally, but dogs are very different. A pug is never going to have the same threat potential as a pit bull. According to the CDC, the most dangerous breeds of dog include:
- Pit Bulls
- German Shephards
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Doberman Pinschers
- Great Danes
- Saint Bernards
This does not mean that all of these breeds are always dangerous. However, an improperly trained dog around an unsupervised child can, in certain circumstances, be a recipe for disaster. You can help prevent dog bites, according to the Canine Journal by always supervising children around dogs – even if they are your own. The organization Safety Around Dogs says that, “Children, because of their small size, are usually not able to sustain an attack until help arrives. Many adults survived severe dog attacks simply by virtue of the fact that they were able to sustain and fend the dogs off to some degree until assistance arrived.” It is also essential to note that children engage in the most dangerous behavior around dogs, simply because they don’t know any better. They pull tails, pull hair, hit dogs in the face, scream, and do other things that either hurt a dog or entice it. High pitched screaming can be a real trigger for a dog. Two-year-old children are the most often killed by dogs, making up 88 percent of dog bite fatalities.
“It is important to emphasize that dogs bite today for the same reasons that they did one hundred or one thousand years ago. Dogs are no more dangerous today than they were a century or millennium ago. They only difference is a shift in human perception of what is and is not natural canine behavior and/or aggression and the breed of dog involved.” — Karen Delise, author of “Fatal Dog Attacks”
So what do you do if you encounter a loose dog, on a walk, for example or if you are actually attacked?
1. Do not make eye contact with the dog. If you are walking and a loose dog is barking at you, keep walking. Do not tell the dog to “go home.” Do not talk to it at all. Just keep moving and look away. If you engage the dog, he may perceive it as a threat.
2. Do not run. If you are running and the dog engages you, slow to walk. Running can induce a dog to chase.
3. Do not scream. Screaming triggers an instinct in a dog that makes him want to bite more.
4. If the dog attacks you, or seems like he is about to, Dog Trainer Victoria Stillwell advises:
* “Find a barrier that you can put between you and the dog – a purse, rolled-up jacket or a stick and try to redirect the dog’s bites onto that item.”
* “Find higher ground and try to move to a position of height away from the dog. It is much harder for him to bite effectively from below.”
* “Try not to scream as this could antagonize the dog further.”
* “Cover the dog’s head with a shirt or blanket so that he cannot see. If you block his eyesight for a moment, it might provide you a window to escape.”
* “In the very rare event a dog is viciously mauling you (as opposed to just trying to bite or landing a few scattered bites), curl up into a ball on the ground, protecting your head and neck while waiting for help. If you are all alone, you are unlikely to get the dog off you by yourself until the dog loses interest.”
Remember, hitting or swinging at the dog can make them even more aggressive, so being still and firm can be more effective. If you see a dog biting or hurting someone else, do not try and pull the dog away. Toss a blanket or jacket over the dog’s head. Loud noises – like banging two pots together – can also be effective. If you see a dog attacking another dog, do not try and pull those dogs apart as you could be injured as well. Instead, use the blanket trick, spray the dogs with water, bang sticks together, or even throw loud items between them – like dog dishes.
An attorney can help you recover expenses and get compensation for dog bite injuries. Because a dog bite injury can affect present or future lost wages, loss of earning capacity, suffering, disfigurement or disability, it is important to let an attorney help you deal with the pet owner’s insurance company. In some cases, landlords of a property can also be pursued if they let dangerous dogs live on the premises.