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Dog Attacks; How To Avoid Them And Proper Dog Training

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Fresno-dog-bite-attorney.jpgAccording to the Humane Society of the United States, there are more than 164 million dogs in the US today.   Over the past decade, both dog ownership and dog bite incidents have increased.  In the US, 4.5 million dog bites occur each year and more than 30,000 victims require reconstructive surgery.

Increasingly, dog owners are being held criminally responsible and liable in lawsuits for the attacks by their pet dogs. Dog bites now account for one-third of all homeowner insurance claims and payouts amount to more than $1 billion annually.  Most states, like Wisconsin, make dog owners automatically liable for all dog bites.


In extreme situations, being liable for a dog attack can mean much more than just financial liability. This past year, a California woman was attacked by four pit bulls while walking in her neighborhood. Even though passing motorist tried to help, the woman was bitten more than 150 times and died at the scene. In this instance, the owner was charged with murder.  When it comes to interacting with dogs, there are a number of steps that both dog owners and the general public can take to prevent dog bites.   A good, responsible owner is key to having a well-behaved dog.

  • One of the first steps for anyone thinking about becoming a dog owner is deciding what type of dog is best for their home.  Choosing a dog whose energy level and temperament align with your home is key, especially if you have a home with infants and small children.

  • Train and socialize your dog.  Basic training is as important for the owner as it is for the dog, and socialization is the key to a well-adjusted adult dog. It is essential that puppies between 8 and 16 weeks old be exposed to a variety of people, places, dogs and other animals. As dogs age, do your best to continue their exposure to these things to ensure that they are well socialized throughout their lives.

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Un-neutered dogs are more aggressive than neutered dogs. Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered. Female dogs in heat and nursing moms are much more dangerous than spayed females, and their behavior can be unpredictable.

  • Supervise your dog.  Dogs left on their own may feel uncertain and defensive, or even overly confident, and this poses risks to your dog, as well as to other people and dogs.  Approximately two-thirds of bites occurred on or near the victim’s property, and most victims knew the dog

  • Restrain your dog.  Approximately 58% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners’ property. Dogs that are allowed to roam loose outside the yard may perceive your entire neighborhood as their “territory” and may defend it aggressively. By obeying leash laws and taking care to properly fence your yard, you will not only be respecting the laws in your community, but you will also be helping keep your dog safe from cars, other dogs and unforeseen dangers.

  • Unchain your dog.  Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs. Tethering or chaining dogs increases their stress, protectiveness and vulnerability, thereby increasing the potential for aggression. Fencing is the better solution.

If you’re not a dog owner or when interact with dogs other than your own, there are also some steps you can take to help lessen the likelihood of a bite.

  • Do not approach a stray or unfamiliar dog, especially if its owner is not present.  If the owner is present, you should always ask if it is OK to pet the dog. If you find a stray animal, call the police or animal control for help.

  • Do not approach a dog with quick motions or from above. If the owner says it’s OK, hold out your hand in a fist for the dog to sniff. Allow time for the dog to acknowledge your presence before attempting to pet it. If the dog’s interested, you can give him a little scratch under the chin (not over the head)

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog while it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies. If a confrontation occurs, do not make eye contact and do not run or scream.

  • 50% of dog attacks involved children under 12 years old and in the majority of these cases, the child was left unsupervised around the dog.  Educate your children. Children who understand how to act around dogs, how to play with dogs, when to leave dogs alone and how to properly meet a dog are much less likely to be bitten.

Even with all the preventative measures in place, it is possible that a dog bite may occur.  If you or your loved ones are the victim of a dog bite, there are steps you should take:

  • Get medical attention right away.  Large dogs can exert more than 450 pounds of pressure per square inch – enough to crush bones.

  • Notify animal control and file a police report about the dog that attacked you.

  • Take pictures of the wound to prove the extent of your injury.

  • Check the laws governing dogs. Most cities require a dog to be on a leash, and some states have vicious dog laws.

  • File a claim with the dog owner’s insurance policy. For most breeds, damage from dog bites are covered by homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

  • You may want to consult with an attorney regarding damages, especially if the injuries may have long lasting effects on your health or ability to work.

Again, responsible ownership, public education and enforcement of existing laws are the most effective ways of reducing dog bites.  With proper training and care, at both the human and canine level, a dog can be a welcome and beloved part of your family.