Being a responsible dog owner means making sure your dog is properly socialized, vaccinated, well mannered, and under your control — at all times. No matter how friendly you think your dog is, there’s always a chance he might see threatening body language in another dog or person. Any canine can have a bad day if he’s not feeling well or has pain you aren’t aware of. All dogs have the potential to snap, nip or bite in an uncomfortable situation, regardless of his breed or size. When a dog bites, it’s scary for both the victim and dog owner. But once the deed is done, it’s time to take responsible actions to try and limit potential liability.
Accept personal responsibility for your dog’s actions
There’s a variety of reasons why dogs bite and most injuries occur because the human did something to provoke the dog. Take a deep breath and accept responsibility for your dog’s actions. You will have an opportunity to defend your pet later. This is not the time to argue about who’s to blame. In the heat of the moment, you need to show empathy and genuine concern for the victim. After all, you could be facing a lawsuit and your conduct is what helps a victim decide to pursue legal action or not. Running away to avoid the consequences never looks good to a jury deciding a personal injury case. Even if you don’t end up in court, your insurance company could be on the hook for a larger settlement if you walk away without addressing the victim’s needs in a responsible way. Exchange insurance and contact information with the victim. Stay calm and be careful what you say. It can be used against you in court. Try to get contact information and statements from witnesses that can help make your case if you are sued. If possible, take photos of the victim’s injuries and any pertinent photos you think might help defend your dog.
Report the incident to your insurance agent
Most homeowner and renter’s insurance policies cover claims for dog bites, but depending on the severity of the wound, you may not want to file a claim if your financial obligation to the victim is less than your deductible. However, a minor bite can turn into a serious medical condition. You need to speak with your insurance agent to make sure you’re covered and if there’s a time limit on filing a claim. Be prepared for the possibility your insurance company may raise your rates or cancel your policy.
Advise the victim to seek medical care
Canines use their tongue to investigate their world. The belief that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than ours is nothing more than a myth. A bite wound can become infected quickly if it’s not taken care of immediately. Some bites are deeper than others and may require extra attention. The person your dog bit may not have the money to pay for a trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Regardless of whether you have insurance or not, the right thing to do is offer to pay their medical expenses and provide a ride if they need one. If your dog bit someone’s pet, offer to take care of the medical expenses for the pet. Being cooperative shows you accept responsibility for your dog’s actions, and are concerned about the victim’s well being. If they refuse to get treatment, let your insurance agent know. It would also be wise to contact an attorney familiar with your state’s dog bite laws — just in case.
Contact the police
Calling the police or animal control is probably one of the hardest things to do. This action could cost your dog his life. Unfortunately, once he’s bitten someone, his fate is out of your hands, especially if he’s a pit bull, bully breed or a mix of either one. Even if it’s his first offense and he had a good reason for biting someone, the authorities will most likely want to monitor him. Filing a police report shows you have accepted responsibility and it could help if you end up in court. Do not get rid of your dog or try to hide him.
Provide rabies vaccination papers
A bite victim will want to know if your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. You know your pet is rabies free and healthy, but they don’t. Without proof of a rabies vaccination, they may have to undergo anti-rabies treatment when it’s not necessary. Plus, it’s an extra medical expense you or your insurance company will be liable for.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show over 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year. Children under the age of 10 are more likely to be bitten and boys are at a higher risk of being injured. All parents, regardless of whether you own a dog or not, should teach their kids how to approach a dog in a respectful way. Children should be taught what to do, and what not to do, when they meet any dog.
The best advice to prevent dog bites is to make sure your dog is properly trained, socialized with people, other pets, and to different environments. Keep him on leash or in a secure enclosure. Do not let him run free. Learn how to read a dog’s body language and know who your pet is as an individual. Understanding how he might react in different situations gives you the opportunity to stop a bite before it happens. Dogs put out signals alerting you to their intentions, so pay attention to what they are saying. Never leave your dog unsupervised around children, no matter how friendly he is. Protect yourself, and your dog, by not putting him in situations where he might bite. Being a responsible dog owner includes accepting the consequences if your dog bites.
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