No dog owner wants to think about the possibility of their dog biting someone, but every dog owner needs to be prepared for this remote possibility. A dog bite can have terrible legal and medical consequences, and both you and your dog can be put in danger. This article addresses single dog bites that are severe enough to break the skin, but not severe enough to threaten the life of the victim. Dog maulings that kill or severely injure someone are highly unusual and should be handled differently than a more mundane dog bite.
The best way to prevent being in the terrible situation of witnessing your dog bite someone is to provide your dog with ample socialization and training, to be cautious around strangers, and to keep your dog away from people until he becomes more social if your dog has aggression issues. But if your dog bites someone, here is what you should do:
Immediately After the Bite
After your dog bites someone, you need to carefully balance the well-being of the victim with your own legal protection. Do not comment on the dog bite at all or give statements to the victim, because these could be later used against you. Instead, focus on dealing with the here and now of the dog bite. If you are kind to the victim, the victim is less likely to hire a lawyer, sue you, or try to have your dog taken away. With that in mind, here are a few things you should do:
-Encourage the victim to seek medical assistance if necessary, and if not, provide the victim with the tools to dress the wound. Unless you know the victim personally, do not dress the wound yourself, or you risk exposing yourself to blood borne diseases.
-Offer to pay for the victim’s medical bills. By doing the right thing, you lower the risk that the victim will sue you because she is angry and feels wronged.
-Immediately secure your dog in a location away from the victim and any other people in the area.
-Exchange contact information with the victim and any witnesses.
-If your dog is up to date on her shots, let the victim know this so she does not have to worry about rabies and other illnesses. Offer to provide a copy of any vaccination records.
After The Bite
Dog owners can be held liable in civil court for bites, and may be forced to pay the victim’s medical expenses. Your dog may also be declared a “dangerous dog”, which typically means you’ll have to comply with very strict rules to keep people safe from your dog. In very severe cases, your dog may be euthanized. This typically only happens if your dog severely injured the victim or has a long history of bites. It’s important not to panic about this possibility and instead to remain rational. DO NOT EUTHANIZE YOUR DOG SIMPLY BECAUSE IT HAS BITTEN SOMEONE! Dogs bite for a variety of reasons, and your first calls after the bite should be to a dog behaviorist and a vet. Getting your dog training will not only help prevent bites in the future; it will also help you if you are sued. Here are a few other things to do:
-Follow up with the victim to see how he or she is doing. This is also a good way for you to gauge how likely it is the victim will file a civil suit.
-Contact an attorney if you believe the victim may file a lawsuit. Don’t even think about going to court without an attorney because you put both you and your dog at risk.
-Document everything- all contacts with the victim, the vet, all training sessions, etc.
-Talk to the witnesses and find out if any of them might be helpful to your side.
-Talk to family members and other people who know your dog, including your vet, who may be able to testify that your dog is not dangerous.
Most importantly, take the bite seriously. There’s no such thing as a dog bite that’s not a big deal. if your dog bites someone, you need the immediate intervention of a qualified dog trainer and a consultation with your veterinarian.