Why You Need To Know the Legal Ramifications of Dog Bites

By | June 23, 2011

As a dog owner, it can be easy to be naïve in the ways of the law. After all, a dog owner can be preoccupied with ensuring that their dog has a healthy and proper lifestyle – dog training can be exhaustive work, after all. But when focusing on a dog’s behavior gets to the point that you ignore the potential legal ramification of dog bites…well, that can spell trouble down the line.

Look at it from the other person’s perspective: if you’re ever bitten by a dog, you want to make sure that you have the right attitude and knowledge to defend your rights. If you need money for medical treatments, the other party might be liable for the dog bite. Needless to say, on both ends of the spectrum – dog owner and dog bite victim – it really pays to be knowledgeable about the legal ramifications of dog bites.

That is why you’re here – and that’s why we’re going to lay out many of the legal issues surrounding dog bites.   If knowledge is power, you should find yourself to be well-armed after getting through this article. And remember, just because you’ve never been bitten in the past doesn’t mean you won’t get bitten tomorrow. So let’s learn all about dog bites and what the legal ramifications can mean for you.

For Dog Owners

First, let’s take it from the perspective of the dog owner. Obviously, keeping your dog under “wraps” while in a public setting is a high priority.

Or is it?

It’s an important question. Why? Because many dog owners will trust their dog not to take action. They don’t have a game plan to handle their dog should a fight ever break out between their dog and another dog. They don’t know what they’d do if their dog got off the leash and started chasing a child. Sure, these are extreme examples of what can go wrong, but if you’re not prepared for this kind of thing, that’s exactly what can happen.

That’s why for dog owners there are two keys: prevention and handling the aftermath of a dog bite.

In the first instance, prevention, you should hopefully secure your dog enough that you’ll never have to handle the aftermath of a dog bite.

There are a number of ways to ensure that your dog will be able to avoid biting people in the future. Let’s take a look at what you can do:

  • Choose a dog that’s suitable for your living environment. An “outside dog” in a city environment? It can be a tricky thing to handle.
  • Train and properly socialize your dog from a young age. If you’re raising your dog from a puppy, it’s a good idea to get them used to the idea that other dogs and strange people don’t pose an imminent threat to their territory.
  • Understand any behavioral issues that a dog you adopt might have to struggle with, and be sure that you plan your dog’s lifestyle around said issues.
  • Learn how to best handle a dog fight should one ever break out.
  • Know the warning signs of dog aggression so that you can correct your dog if need be.

There is, of course, a book’s worth of material to know about keeping dogs from biting other dogs or people, and we won’t be able to cover all of that material in this article. But it will be important for you to make focusing on your dog’s behavior a priority. If you leave the safety of strangers to only the strength of a leash, it’s a thin line you straddle.

What about handling the aftermath of a dog bite? There are a number of things you can do – first, remain calm. It’s easy to get into a shouting match with the victim of a dog bite. You can also avoid further legal entanglements by offering to pay for the medical bills of the dog bite victim (which should also be motivation for focusing on prevention!). It’s also important that you understand liability when it relates to dog bites, and that you might not always be held liable. Know how to tell the difference.

For Dog Bite Victims

The legal ramifications of a dog bite from the victim’s perspective are very clear: you want to be taken care of and be properly compensated if someone else was at fault for the dog’s behavior. Since a dog can’t exactly be sued, you need to know when the owner is liable. There are a number of ways you can do this.

First, remember that if you’re breaking into someone’s house, being bitten by their dog will not mean the owner is liable!

Next, remember that if you agitate the dog in any way, you can easily be held liable for the dog bite, which will mean that you’re responsible for taking care of your own bills. Don’t agitate a dog – instead, if you do enough to avoid the bite but are still bitten, you can easily make a case that you aren’t liable for the bite.

Be sure to record everything that occurs after a dog bite as well. Take pictures of your injuries, keep the medical bills, and make sure that you’re receiving the adequate and proper treatment for the injuries. If you claim that the dog owner is also responsible for your asthma medication, for example, you might have a tougher time making that case as opposed to simply suing based on the actual bills you’ve accrued.

It’s also important to remember that it’s far easier to prevent a dog bite than to handle the legal ramifications after the bite takes place. So learn how to behave around dogs in a non-threatening but still assertive way. Learn where to walk to avoid a lot of dogs and enjoy a peaceful walk outside. You’d be surprised how just a few tweaks in your daily lifestyle can change things up for you and get you out of harm’s way easily and quickly.

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