Dog Bite Safety and Prevention

By Jason M. Lichtenstein, Esq.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. While many of these dog bites result in minor injuries, some dog bites can cause traumatizing injuries and permanent scars.

As the weather gets warmer, more and more people will take their dogs outside to cookouts, parties, and parks. Here are a few ways you can help prevent dog bites:

  • Follow the leash laws in your area. If you’re taking your dog into a public place, you should keep your dog on a leash. While leash laws may vary from state-to-state, dog owners are ultimately responsible for their dog’s actions.
  • Socialize your dogs. Under-socialized dogs may feel uneasy if they’re approached by strangers and may be more inclined to bite. Training your dog to be social with children, new people, and even other dogs will help prevent them from biting out of fear when meeting strangers.
  • Be cautious. Avoid putting your dog in a situation where it could feel threatened or be teased. Dogs have very protective instincts and may react aggressively in these situations, even if they’re nice dogs. Be ready to respond to any signs that your dog is beginning to feel uncomfortable, and remove it from the situation.

Typically dogs that are getting ready to attack exhibit the following signs:

  • The dog’s nose may be pulled back and wrinkled and its lips may be drawn back to reveal its teeth.
  • The dog’s ears may lay back, pinned against its head, or be pushed up forward.
  • The dog’s body may appear tense and cocked.
  • The dog may growl or snarl.

If you think a dog may attack you, the Humane Society says that consumers should resist the impulse to yell or run away. Instead, they recommend remaining motionless, with hands at your side, and avoid making eye contact with the dog. Once the dog loses interest in you, then it’s okay to slowly back away until the dog is out of sight.

Dog Owners: Know Your Responsibilities

Unfortunately, dog attacks still occur. It’s important for dog owners to understand that if their dog does attack, they can be held responsible for any injuries that result from the attack, which may cost thousands of dollars to treat.

According to a recent study by the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 50 percent of people hospitalized for dog bites required treatment for skin and tissue infections, with an average cost of $18,200 per patient.

Since dog bites are so common, many states and local governments have laws to protect consumers. However, just like leash laws, dog bite laws vary from state to state. Know these Pennsylvania dog laws:

  • Owners must have “reasonable control” over their dogs at all times. Dogs must be confined on the dog owner’s property or restrained to prevent straying. If a dog bite victim can prove that a dog owner violated this law, they make seek compensation for their injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses.
  • Dogs in Pennsylvania can be deemed “dangerous” for a number of reasons, such as if they’ve already inflicted severe injury on a person or animal without being provoked or have a history of attacking people without being provoked.
  • If a dog is deemed “dangerous” in Pennsylvania, the owner must register the dog as such and obtain liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000.

Avoid Becoming a Dog Bite Patient

While most of us would never expect our dogs to bite anyone, let alone a family member or neighbor, dogs can be unpredictable. They may bite for various reasons. That’s why it’s so important that dog owners and people interacting with dogs take the proper precautions to avoid suffering from a dog bite. Visit these links for more information on dog bite lawsleash laws, and safety tips.

Attorney Jason M. Lichtenstein is a partner at the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates. He has over 18 years of experience representing victims of dog bites. For more information on dog bites and animal attacks, visit EdgarSnyder.com.