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 if ordered to use it by the court.
- If the person who was bitten by your dog decides to sue, it is up to you to prove that your dog is not dangerous. You will want to get your dog into a canine good citizen program and follow advice on how to prove that your dog is not dangerous immediately.
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 27
Will my service dog be traumatized by a ten-day quarantine? Will it affect his training?
The training will be set back for ten days, but there is no reason to expect him to be traumatized.Helpful 2
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 20
I live in Georgia. I was parked in a public parking lot and had my 8-year-old Labrador with me that has never been aggressive before. He was in the back of my 4-runner. I left the window half down and ran to drop a package off at the UPS store. When I came out a gentleman told me my dog had bitten him. There was a small nic on his arm that was not bleeding. Should I be concerned?
I do not think so. If the person reports that the dog was being aggressive you should have him reported since he was breaking into your truck. If this were my dog I would wait and see if anything happens, but if it does you will have to hire a local lawyer familiar with the laws in your area.Helpful 3
My dog bit someone, but that was taken care of. Today, my dog was on a leash. We were hiking, and as a biker went by, he nipped the guy but barely cut through the skin. Will my dog be put down?
This depends on the state you live in, so if you really want to know, you will have to consult with a local lawyer.
If your dog has already bitten someone in the past, and now has bitten someone again (no matter how minor), he will likely be declared a dangerous dog even if he is not euthanized by animal control. If you are able to take him for a walk in the future, you need to walk your dog with a basket muzzle. A basket muzzle allows him to breathe normally, but he is not able to bite.
This muzzle might save his life. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/dog-to-dog-aggressionHelpful 6