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” visit: http://dogbitelaw.com/faq/which-are-the-one-bite-states.html)
Some things to keep in mind if you are attacked by a dog:
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.