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Laws on Dog Bites

Updated November 21, 2016

When you are bitten by a dog, or when your dog bites someone else, it is important to know what to do next. Dog bite laws are designed to protect the rights of both the victims of dog bite attacks and dog owners.

Dog Owners

Civil and criminal laws exist that hold dog owners liable for dog bites, which were caused by negligence. You may have heard of "the one-bite rule," which essentially means that dog owners are not liable for injuries caused by their dogs unless they know that their dog is vicious. Most states today, however, have eliminated this rule. Dog owners are usually liable for all bites and injuries caused by their dogs as long as the victim is not guilty of trespassing or provoking the dog. Dog owners are also liable in most states for injuries caused by owner negligence.

After a Bite

First of all, don't panic. Remain calm, restrain your dog, and be as nice as possible to the victim. Offer first aid, offer to drive them to the hospital and to pay for their medical bills if necessary. Remember, they now have the right to retain an attorney and sue you for medical and other expenses. Make sure to get the contact information of the victim and stay in touch with them in the weeks following the incident. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to avoid litigation simply by showing genuine concern for the victim.

Dog Bite Victims

Dog bite laws are designed to protect victims of unprovoked dog attacks. Depending on the laws where you live, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and miscellaneous expenses.

The first thing to do if you are bitten by a dog is to identify the dog and its owner. If you can't make an identification, or if the dog is a stray, you may have to undergo painful rabies shots and may not be reimbursed for medical treatment and other expenses. If you can identify the dog and its owner, you likely will avoid rabies treatment. Make sure to get the name and address of the dog owner and the license information of the dog.

Go back to the scene of the accident to obtain the contact information of any witnesses and be sure to take photos of your injuries and your bloody clothing. This will come in handy if you are unable to negotiate personally with the dog owner and need to retain an attorney.

Prevention for Owners

Make sure that your dog is socialised and exposed to a variety of people and situations. Obedience training goes a long way towards curbing aggression. It can prevent situations in which your dog may feel nervous or threatened, and so resort to biting someone. It is also important to always properly restrain your dog when in public.

Prevention for Others

Never approach a strange dog when the owner is not present, even if the dog appears to be friendly. Make sure that you never enter a yard where an unrestrained dog is present and the owner does not appear to be close by. Teach your children never to approach a strange dog. They should always be respectful of dogs' boundaries.

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About the Author

Hazel Baker has been writing professionally since 2003. She covers e-commerce, technology and legal topics for various online publications. Baker has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in history from Point Loma Nazarene University.