Dog Bite Laws: Am I Entitled to a Lawsuit?

While dogs are commonly known as “Man’s Best Friend”, there are certain breeds that inflict serious injury on humans and their canine counterparts. Nearly 75 million dogs live in the United States. 880,000 dog bite victims seek emergency medical care at hospitals in the U.S. annually according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dog bites occur every 75 seconds in the United States and the CDC estimates that there are nearly 4.5 million dog bites occurring yearly. More than 30,000 dog bite victims undergo reconstructive surgery each year to repair the damage caused by dog attacks.

What Are The Most Dangerous Dog Breeds?

In the 10 year period from 2005 to 2014, Pit Bulls killed 203 Americans and accounted for 62% of the total recorded deaths. Notably the most dangerous of breeds are Pitt Bulls and Rottweilers who are responsible for such injuries on an annual basis:

  • 86% of attacks that induce bodily harm
  • 81% of the attacks on children
  • 89% of the attacks on adults
  • 76% of the fatal attacks
  • 86% of the attacks resulting in maiming.

Why Are Pit Bulls So Dangerous?

Dog breeds are characterized by their physical and behavioral traits and each breed was developed to perform a specific job. Today’s pit bull is a descendant of the original English bull-baiting dog—a dog that was bred to bite and hold bulls, bears and other large animals around the face and head.

When baiting large animals was outlawed in the 1800s, people starting pitting their dogs against each other in dog fights. Therefore larger, slower bull-baiting dogs were crossed with smaller, quicker terriers to produce a more agile and athletic dog for fighting other dogs.

  • Random Breeding – The vast majority of pit bulls today are likely the result of random breeding—two dogs being mated without regard to the behavioral traits being passed on to their offspring.  The result of random breeding is a population of dogs with a wide range of behavioral predispositions – some of which are extremely aggressive.
  • Selective Breeding – Selective Breeding is the process of breading for particular traits, which has strengthened some dangerous propensities already inherently found in Pit Bulls. In particular, Pit Bulls have been bread for enormous jaw strength and a “hold and shake” bite style that makes their bite more dangerous and often deadly because they will not release their deadly grip.

Therefore the responsible ownership of any dog requires a commitment to proper socialization, humane training and conscientious supervision. Pit Bull owners are encouraged to carry a break stick, for example to break the incredible bite of their pet in the event of an attack.

Are there Laws Against Breeding Dogs For Aggression?

Laws that ban particular breeds of dogs do not achieve the aim of safety and instead create the illusion, but not the reality, of enhanced public safety.  There are no statewide laws that discriminate based on dog breed and even the White House weighed in on the discussion. In 2013, President Obama stated: “[w]e don’t support breed-specific legislation—research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.”

What Do I Do If Someone is Bitten In My Presence?

Emergency personnel should always be called immediately because an attack can escalate from mild to vicious and deadly in an instant. If you can safely do so, you may attempt to intervene because the dog bite victim needs to be taken to a safe place away from the attacking dog to prevent further injury.  This approach must be viewed with caution, however because many good Samaritans became victims themselves by trying to rescue others.

Victims must immediately be seen by a medical professional because a lot dog bites cause significant damage beneath the skin and the damage cannot always be visibly seen. Wounds should be closely monitored.

The victim should also obtain information about the dogs owners and responsible party(ies) and the dogs rabies, immunization and other relevant health records. Sometimes, information about previous bite history may also be needed.

What Types of Injuries a Person Can Suffer from a Dog Attack?

There are many types of dog bite injuries that can occur when a victim is involved in a canine-related attack. Each type of injury holds it’s own unfortunate circumstances, creating hardship via the following:

  • Bite: The rounded teeth of a dog can cause puncture and tearing wounds caused when it clamps down his jaw muscles onto the skin and flesh of his victim.
  • Scarring: The most frequent target of a dog attack is the face (lips, nose, cheeks) causing about 44,000 facial injuries seen in the hospital yearly. These wounds can result in disfiguring scars requiring painful and extensive plastic surgery.
  • Emotional and Psychological injuries: A dog attack can be an extremely traumatizing event resulting in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This can manifest itself as nightmares, recall of the unpleasant memories of the attack, unreasonable fear for personal safety, fear of dogs and/or animals and emotional withdrawal, etc.
  • Rabies: If the dog has rabies, the victim can contract the disease as well. Rabies is a disease that attacks the brain and nervous system and can be transmitted in the saliva of animals infected with the disease. To eradicate rabies requires the victim to undergo a series of shots over a period of 4 weeks.
  • Head or Brain Injuries: Since the head is a common attack point, head and brain injuries are common. These injuries can also occur if the victim falls as a result of a vicious attack and hits their head while trying to fend away their attacker.
  • Broken Bones: A dog’s jaws can be so powerful so as to cause bone-crushing injury.
  • Death: Sometimes dog attacks can be so vicious that they result in death, particularly when the victims are incredibly young.

How Do I Stay Safe Around An Aggressive Dog?

Pay attention to your surroundings if you are in the presence of an aggressive dog, for the chance of an unexpected attack always remains an unpredictable possibility. Knowing various tips and skills on how to interpret a dog’s body language can be a life-saver.

  •  Do not approach an unfamiliar dog, whether chained or loose.
  • Do not directly stare into a dog’s eyes.
  • Do not intervene in a fight involving more than one dog.
  • If knocked to the ground during a dog fight or attack, curl up into a ball to protect your head, neck and ears.
  • If possible, “feed” an attacking dog your jacket, sweater or purse to give the something else to clamp down upon as you try to get to safety.
  • Be aware of dangerous breeds.
  • If you frequently walk, jog or bike past an overly aggressive dog (even if chained or behind a fence), take an alternate route because you never know when the chain or fence will cease holding them back.
  • Identify who the owner is after an attack.
  • Understand the ordinances in your state and town.
  • Report behavior such as aggressive tendencies, noise violations and loose animals.

What To Do After a Dog Bite

Most victims of dog bite attacks remain in a state of shock in the wake of the aftermath of their accident. It’s important to immediately take action for your health as well as your legal rights.

  • Immediately wash your injury with soap and warm water if you are able to do so, animal bites are infested with bacteria that can harm you.
  • Contact your physician for additional care necessary to treat your wound.
  • Report the bite to a local animal care and control agency with information about the dog and the owner.

When Can I Sue For a Dog Bite Attack?

Dog bite lawsuits can be pursued if the dog owner is at fault for the incident. If you or one a member of your party were actively provoking the dog into an attack, you may be held liable. Seeking personal injury consultation is highly recommended if you believe you are entitled to compensation for your canine-related attack. A dog bite lawyer can help you receive compensation for:

  • Any medical bills relating to your accident.
  • All costs and damages affiliated with your dog bite injuries.
  • Emotional stress or any other mental health conditions stemming from your dog attack.
  • Lost wages from work as well as time spent in doctor’s appointments relating to your accident.
  • Permanent cosmetic, disfigurement or disability in direct correlation to your case.

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