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, and 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 maybe having been 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.
If Your Dog Bites Someone, Here's What You Should Do:
1. 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.)
2. 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.
3. After you put the dog in the house 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.)
4. 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.
5. 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 the dogs end up dead. Dog lives matter.)
6. Purchase a muzzle for your dog so that if you are ordered to buy a muzzle, you will already have one.
Q: What Is a One Bite Rule?
A: Some states have a rule that says that the dog owner will be held strictly 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.
Other Things You Need to Know
- 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.
Questions & Answers
My dog bit my two-year-old niece in the face. He has never shown any signs of aggression, and has been nothing but sweet to her especially. Even though paramedics and law enforcement is labeling it as an accident and not requiring anything to be done, my stepbrother who is my niece's dad is demanding I put my dog down. Even with it being deemed an accident, will animal control order me to put him down because my brother demands it?
Toddlers get bit in the face because they crawl around, get in the dogs face, and then usually do something like pulling the dog's ears. The dog gets annoyed, and since he would not put up with it from a puppy, he will not usually put up with it from an infant. Unfortunately, toddlers are delicate, so the bites are usually pretty bad.
Animal control cannot require you to put your dog down unless a judge demands it. This will probably not happen if this is the first time your dog has bitten someone. If you need more help, especially if your brother pursues this in court, you need to consult and hire a local attorney.Helpful 9
Is the one bite policy in Washington state?
Your dog is not considered vicious unless he has previously bitten someone. Washington state does allow the one bite policy.
To prevent any problems, you should contact a local lawyer.Helpful 1
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 17
My dog nibbled on someone that was riding by. First aid was offered, but no further attention was wanted. Days go by and “the parents and child” come back asking for $600. What do we do?
If that is what they want, and they never came back again, it would be worth it to avoid any legal problems with your dog. Unfortunately, they might come back again, and again.
If I were in your situation, I would contact an attorney. When the people come back, refer them to your attorney and when they get the money, they will have to sign a letter stating that they will not seek any further damages.Helpful 9
My dog had a scuffle with another dog. Their owner put her foot between them, and got bit. She totally understood that it was an accident, and told me not to worry about anything, but I have a neighbor that just hates us that I believe called animal control. Now they're asking questions, and want a picture of my dog. What do I do?
They are probably trying to put your dog on a dangerous dog list. I am not sure if you are legally required to allow them to come into your house and take a picture of your dog. If this were my dog, I would want to consult an attorney before letting them invade my house.Helpful 14