Each year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports an estimated 4.7
million people are attacked by dogs. While most cases involve a family's
pet, hundreds of thousands of children and adults are attacked by neighbor's
pets or animals that they have never met - often resulting in medical
bills, pain and suffering.
So what do you do when man's best friend turns on you? The laws regarding
owning and caring for your dog differ by state. For example, in some states
owning certain breeds of dogs – like pit bulls – may be illegal.
Just this year Texas proposed a law where owning a pit bull would be a
felony. The proposed legislation called "Justin's Law" sparked
outrage amongst pit bull owners and lovers, and debate over whether the
breed was innately dangerous. The act came following the death of ten-year-old
Justin Clinton, who was mauled to death in 2009 by two pit bulls.
Also keep in mind that most cities have leash laws which require dogs to
be on a leash unless confined to a house or fenced in area - even on your
own property. Failure to abide by these laws can greatly increase the
potential for penalties if someone is injured.
Another factor in dog incidents that differs by state is the "one
bite rule" which does not hold dog owners responsible for an animal's
first attack. Currently, there are 18 U.S. states which still follow this
rule, including Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina and Arkansas.
(For a complete list of states that follow the "one bite rule"
Some things to keep in mind if you are attacked by a dog:
- Having a posted "Beware of Dog" or similar type of warning sign
can potentially offset an owner's liability for a dog bite or attack.
- If you're injured while trespassing, the dog's owners are usually
protected from criminal suits.
- If you have intervened to protect someone's pet or another person from
being hurt by a dog and are injured, the animal's owner may be responsible
for your injuries.
As a parent, you can prevent an attack by educating children on how to
act appropriately around dogs. Studies have shown that the leading dog-bite
prevention measure is education - and knowing how to play with dogs and
when to leave them alone can play a big role in decreasing a child's
risk of being attacked. Children should learn to treat animals gently
(never hit, bite or pull on an animal's tails or paws) and not to
bother or surprise them when they are eating, guarding their toys or sleeping.
And always, ALWAYS, supervise children – especially young ones –
around animals. The American Humane Association shows that 50 percent
of dog attacks affect a child under the age of 12 and 70 percent of dog-bit
fatalities affect involve children under the age of 10.
And there are acts that you can take towards protecting yourself from a
dog bite. Never approach an animal that you do not know – always
ask the owner for the dog's temperament and permission before touching
the animal. When you do pet a dog, clench your hand into a fist and allow
it to sniff the top of your hand. And always scratch under the dogs jaw
and not over its head, where it can't see what you're doing.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a dog attack and is seeking
the help of a skilled, compassionate attorney, Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner can help.