What to Do When Your Dog Bites Someone
Out of a total of about 4.5 million incidents of dogs biting per year, there are more than 350,000 that end up in US emergency rooms. Only a small percentage of those bitten sue the dog's owner, but do you want to be one of the few who loses your dog, loses a home, or even goes to jail as a result of a dog bite?
Why Do Dogs Bite?
- Some dogs bite because they have been trained by their owners to be aggressive; the owner may not even be aware he is teaching this behavior.
- Some dogs bite because of previous incidents of maltreatment, like being subjected to misguided “trainers” practicing alpha rolls, being sprayed in the face with a water bottle, or being slapped with a rolled-up newspaper.
- Some dogs bite because they feel trapped by a human's inappropriate attempt at affection.
It doesn’t matter why he does it, though, because if your dog ends up biting someone, you are in for a lot of headaches.
What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone
- Take him to a kennel or crate and lock him up, immediately. I have read numerous accounts of people who have lost their dog when the police showed up to investigate. Police might shoot the dog on sight or might haul him off to an animal shelter. But if you take your dog and lock him up in your house, it's less likely that the police will open fire. (This is not what the lawyers recommend, of course, but they are not concerned about your dog's welfare.)
- Talk to the person who was bitten and tell them that you will cover all their expenses. Have a first aid kit on hand and offer it to them. If they want to go to an emergency room, offer to drive. Do NOT tell them it was your dog's fault.
- After you secure the dog and do what you can for the person who was bitten, call your insurance company. (Of course you should have homeowners insurance that covers your dog. If you do not, and you are sued, you could lose it all. If you own a dog that others consider vicious, you will have to pay more and will have trouble finding a carrier. The insurance company might not want to continue providing coverage after the first bite, but at least you'll be protected for that first incident.)
- Make an appointment to see your veterinarian and tell them you need a referral to see an animal behaviorist who deals with dog aggression. Even if your dog bit because he was trapped and being abused, his actions are still not normal and need to be addressed.
- If the police show up, just tell them the situation is being dealt with. You do not need to let them into your house without a warrant and do not need to surrender your dog. If they continue to harass you, tell them to call your lawyer. If the police become involved, you will need a lawyer. (Police and animal control officers hate this part of the article. They cannot bust into your home if they do not have a warrant. I have heard hundreds of people tell me stories about not being able to get their dogs back, and their dogs end up dead.)
- Purchase a muzzle for your dog so that if you are ordered to buy a muzzle, you will already have one.
Dog-Biting Tips for Dog Owners
- Some articles make claims about which breeds are more likely to bite, but these articles are full of misinformation, and articles that scare people are part of the problem. Any dog has the potential to bite, but larger breeds can do a lot more damage. A visitor might laugh off a ferocious little Chihuahua but get really upset if your Rottweiler growls at them.
- A word of warning: some states have a “one-bite” rule and allow a dog one free bite before it is determined he is aggressive. If your dog has already bitten someone in one of those states, or if you have been stupid enough to train your dog to be aggressive, the penalties are going to be a lot harsher.
- Even if you have the mildest, most mellow old dog that would never bite anyone, you should make sure you have a secure place to put him in the house, have an insurance policy that covers him, and make sure you know of a lawyer you can work with if a bite occurs.
- Sometimes, bites happen to the nicest dogs. People can do the most annoying things, and sometimes it is just more than even the best dog can bear.
- Protect your dog's life. After all, she is always there to protect yours.
What Is a One Bite Rule?
Some states have a rule that says that the dog owner will be held liable for injuries caused by the animal only if the owner knew (or should have known) about the animal's dangerous or vicious propensities. In other words, if the dog bit before, then the owner is responsible.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
The little boy next door jumped into my backyard my pitbull bit him on the thigh and now the city and the police department are asking for so many restrictions. Now I have to euthanize my dog because of the health department and police department don't want him around my children. They deemed him dangerous. Can I sue the neighbors because their son was a cause of this my dog never bit anyone before?
I am not sure that you could win, but yes you could try to sue if you find a lawyer willing to represent you. For further information you need to contact a local lawyer.Helpful 23
My one-year-old pitbull (who has never shown signs of aggression) reached over our front yard fence and bit a passerby walking on the sidewalk! We immediately caged him up and went to the victim's house to show legal vet papers of his shots required. It is possible that I can be sued and my dog be put down? I don't have insurance for him. He isn't even aggressive to other dogs! I have a five-year-old, and they are best buddies.
Yes, you can be sued. The judge will probably declare him a dangerous dog, but it is unlikely they will force you to put him down after a first bite. (Check and find out if you live in a "first bite" state.) It does not matter if he has been aggressive in the past. The court will probably find you culpable because the dog could reach over the fence to bite a passerby. You should consult a local lawyer before this proceeds any further and then if they do file a lawsuit you will have someone able to help you immediately.Helpful 3
My half Akita shepherd bit the Veterinarian when he came out to administer a rabies shot. He grew impatient, picked the dog up from behind and slammed him into the dirt. No wonder the dog bit. What can I do?
It is unlikely a vet is going to try and sue you over a dog bite, and even less likely that you will be able to sue him for animal abuse. If you do not hear from him again, that is probably for the best. If your dog is aggressive with everyone, I'd consult an animal behaviorist, and get another vet next time your dog needs a rabies vaccination.
My sister's puppy bit me while playing; not knowing any better. I was forced to fill out a bite report. What will happen?
It depends on the age of the puppy and the severity of the bite. If it were just a little puppy nipping, nothing would happen. I do not understand your comment about being forced to fill out a bite report. Was the bite severe enough that you had to have medical care? Did you fill out the bite report at the hospital?
If the puppy is older, over 16 weeks, he is legally required to have his rabies vaccination. If this has not been done, your sister will probably be visited by animal control.Helpful 2
My dogs jumped the fence and mauled a dog, and the owner of the other dog is claiming that he was bitten. What should I do?
Is that person asking for financial damages secondary to the bite? If you are not sure it happened, and the person did not get any medical attention after, a lawyer might be able to show that it did not even happen. If so, your dog would not be deemed dangerous, and you would have a lot fewer headaches down the road.
The best thing you could do now is contact an attorney so that you can hire them before this proceeds. An attorney might be able to write a letter to that person, and this will all be over.Helpful 6