What happens when a dog bites someone?

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If a dog bites you, take immediate action to identify the dog that caused harm. If the dog is a stray, you might need to undergo treatment for rabies. However, if you know the dog's owner, notify him at once to contain the dog to prevent it from injuring others.

Dog bite victims are entitled to compensation from the animal's owner, but just how much varies by state.

Seek Medical Care

Even if your injuries seem minor seek medical attention. If the dog broke the skin, antibiotic treatment to prevent infection is recommended. If your injuries are too serious for you to locate the dog's owner immediately following the attack, get treatment first. You can always return to the accident scene later and visit nearby homes and businesses, looking for witnesses.

Document the Dog Bite

Victims should take photographs of the injuries on the day the bite took place. Documents can later be used in court should you decide to bring a claim against the dog's owner.

Filing a Claim

If injuries are minor, meaning that you did not need stitches or suturing, you can file your own small claims court action without the assistance of an attorney. However, if stitching, surgery or corrective plastic surgery is needed, enlist the help of an attorney who has tried dog bite cases in the state where the accident occurred.

Insurance Claims

If you've hired an attorney to try your case, allow her to speak to the dog owner's insurance company on your behalf. If, however, you are on your own, find out the name of the insurance company, its contact information, the case claim number and how much money is available to cover your medical expenses.

Dog Owner Responsibilities

If your dog has bitten someone and broken skin, the attending physician is obligated to report the dog bite to the local animal control agency in most municipalities. If this is the first time the dog has bitten, take it to your veterinarian for an examination to rule out any pathological reasons for the aggression. Thyroid disease, for example, can cause aggression in previously friendly dogs. If it's thyroid disease, medication can control the disease, including aggressive behaviours that may result.

Temperament Evaluation

Many factors can cause a dog to bite. Dog owners should find out as much information about the incident from the victim and witnesses if they were not present when the accident occurred. Take notes so you can relate accurate information to a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviourist at the temperament test, a standardised test that measures a dog's reaction to certain stimuli and challenges.

Since the physician and medical staff who attended to the victim must report the dog bite, dog owners should be prepared to receive a call from animal control. Some municipalities mandate a 10-day quarantine at the shelter or "house arrest" at the dog's home.


Should the dog have a history of biting people, perhaps additional behaviour modification with a training professional and vigilant supervision will thwart future bites. If this is a dog's first bite, enrol him in an obedience class to safeguard against future incidents, and to learn the signs that trouble might be brewing and how to take preventive action.