The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur per year in the United States. Approximately 880,000 people seek medical treatment per year for injuries suffered as a result of dog bites. Of these victims, about 30,000 seek reconstructive surgery and fifteen to twenty die. In most cases, the owner of the dog is liable for any injuries or damages suffered as a result of a dog bite.
Who is At Risk for Dog Bites?
Children between the ages of five and nine are at a higher risk for dog bites. This is because children often do not understand limits, and may pet a dog too hard or hit the dog. Dogs may be upset by loud noises or fast movement, and dogs that are not often around children may be frightened or made uncomfortable by the normal activities of children. Parents should always watch children around dogs, especially if the dog is unfamiliar, and be alert for signs of aggression from the dog or signs of fear from the child. If there are any signs of fear or discomfort, the child and the dog should be separated.
Men are more likely to be bitten by dogs than woman. All people that own dogs or allow dogs into the household are at greater risk than those that do not typically encounter dogs on a daily basis. However, dogs may get loose while on walks or when doors are opened, so people that do not normally associate with dogs are still at risk for dog bites, although that risk is lower.
Preventing Dog Bites
In many cases, dog bites could have been prevented. Dogs are typically not aggressive unless provoked or put into an uncomfortable situation. Owners should take responsibility to be aware of a dog’s temperament, and avoid situation that may place safety in jeopardy.
Ways to prevent dog bites include:
- Stay away from unfamiliar dogs
- Never leave young children alone with a dog
- Use caution when approaching dogs, and do so slowly
- If a dog shows aggression, stay calm and slowly move away from the dog
- Leave dogs alone while feeding puppies
Handling the Medical Aspect of Dog Bites
In the event that a dog bite does occur, the dog and the person that was bitten must be separated. The dog should be isolated so that further dog bites do not cause injury or damage. The person who was bitten should seek immediate medical attention. If it is possible, the wound should be washed immediately. Peroxide or antibacterial creams may be applied to the wound, depending on the degree and type of injury, and an attempt should be made to stop bleeding.
The victim of the dog bite should seek medical care, as some dog bites may cause damage below the skin or by infection. An inquiry should be made as to the dog’s immunizations, especially rabies shots. If the owner is unwilling or unavailable to provide this information, law enforcement or animal control centers may be able to assist with obtaining this information.
Handling the Legal Aspect of Dog Bites
An attempt should be made to find the names of the dog’s owners and any witnesses to incidents of dog bites as quickly as possible. Witnesses can be particularly helpful if the dog’s owners are unknown at the time of the attack. Reporting dog bites to animal control authorities can be helpful in preventing further injuries from dog bites. Dogs may be quarantined for an amount of time specified by the state or county if rabies vaccinations are not current or unknown.
Although state laws may differ, dog owners are responsible for costs stemming from injuries incurred from a dog bite in most cases. An attorney may be able to assist in guidance on state laws in the event of a dog bite. An attorney will be able to provide assistance to both victims of dog bites, and owners of a dog that has caused bite injuries.
“Animal Bites: First Aid.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical education and Research, 17 Nov 2011. Web. 23 Sep 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-animal-bites/FA00044>.
“Dog Bites.” American Humane Society. American humane Society, n.d. Web. 23 Sep 2013. <http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/stop-animal-abuse/fact-sheets/dog-bites.html>.
“Dog Bite Prevention.” AVMA We Are VeterinaryMedicine. American Veterinary Medical Association, n.d. Web. 23 Sep 2013. <https://www.avma.org/public/pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.asp&xgt;.