Dogs can have many positive impacts on their owner’ lives. They influence social, emotional, and cognitive development in children, promote an active lifestyle, provide companionship, and have even been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures or the presence of certain cancers. Dogs can also help to relieve stress and anxiety in people. Around 38% of US households are estimated to have one or more dogs.
Dog bites cause significant harm to millions of people in the US each year. Children have the highest risk of dog bites, with large incidences and greater severity of injuries. Of the nearly 340 000 emergency department (ED) visits for dog bite injuries each year – equating to more than 900 per day – more than 40% of the victims are children and adolescents.
If your dog bites a child, you may be panicking. Even dogs that do not exhibit any signs of aggressive behavior can end up biting someone. While there are millions of people bitten by dogs across the country every year, California takes the lead with California residents suffering more dog bites than residents of any other state in the U.S. You should know what to do if your dog bites a child.
You should know how to respond should you find yourself facing this challenging situation.
What To Do After A Child Has Been Bitten
Children are more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog, and when they are, the injuries can be more severe. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. Having a dog in the household is linked to a higher likelihood of being bitten than not having a dog.
If your dog has bitten a child, you act promptly. You should know how to respond and what to do if you find yourself facing this situation.
- Your first step will be to administer first aid. Usually, the dog will attack the legs because they can easily be reached, but the wounds could be elsewhere, such as on the arms, hands, or trunk. You should assess the injury to determine if it is a minor wound or if it is deep. If the wound is minor, make sure it is washed carefully with soap and water. Antibiotic cream can help avoid infection. If the wound is more serious, apply pressure with a dry, clean cloth so the bleeding will stop. The child should get medical care right away. If the injuries are serious, call an ambulance.
- Make sure your dog is removed from the situation. Put your dog in your house or in a fenced in area away from people. You want the dog to calm down and you do not want anyone else to be bitten. You will need to work with your dog, or enlist the help of a professional trainer, to help prevent future instances of this kind of behavior.
- You will need to gather copies of your dog’s vaccination records. The physician treating the child’s dog bites will need to know that your dog was properly vaccinated. As an example, if they were not sure that your dog had its rabies vaccination, then the child may be administered a painful series of immunizations to prevent rabies.
- Contact your homeowners’ insurance company. You should review your policy and speak with an insurance agent or adjuster. They need to be aware of the situation because most likely the parents of the child who was bitten by your dog will pursue a claim to cover the cost of medical bills and other expenses associated with the child suffering injuries.
- Consult with an attorney. The child’s parents may take legal action against you if your dog has bitten their child, and an attorney will represent you and work to defend you and protect your interest in such situations. Also, a lawyer will investigate the details surrounding the dog bite and may be able to show that the dog was provoked or mistreated by the child and was defending itself.
While it can be a stressful time for you, you should remain calm. Do not automatically take the blame or make promises to cover the cost of any associated expenses. Instead, gather evidence and documentation and speak with an attorney about the situation. You do not want to accept liability until the situation has been carefully reviewed and the sequence of events that led up to the dog bite taking place has been revealed.
Protecting Yourself and Your Dog
An attorney will be able to help you protect your rights and your dog. If this was a one-time incident – your dog has never bitten anyone before – or if the child hurt or provoked your dog, you will want to prove that your dog is not aggressive and biting the child was out of character for the dog’s normal actions.
A lawyer will also be able to determine if you are liable, and if you do have liability in the case, your lawyer will be able to determine the damages that you are responsible for and come up with a fair settlement value for the settlement.
“Liability can be based on a common law theory of negligence of the owner where recovery is based on the action or lack of action by an animal owner /keeper” noted Sam Dordulian, a former deputy district attorney in the LA County District Attorney’s office and managing dog bite injury attorney. “Common law is the law derived from court decisions and historical traditions rather than explicit statutory provisions.”
You do not want your insurance limits to be reached, and you do not want to have to pay anything out of pocket.
Make sure you have all documentation, such as vaccination records, insurance policies, and so forth put in a place for safe keeping. That way, should you find yourself in a situation where your dog has bitten a child, you will have access to what you need to take care of you and your situation.