It is your job, as an owner, to train and socialize your dog and protect people from being hurt by your dog.
There are many dog trainers and obedience classes available as well as books to help you understand dog behavior and keep you and others safe. As Barbara Woodhouse used to say "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners." Owners are responsible for dogs that injure others.
In addition to proper care and training, here are some steps to take:
Treat the problem A dog who is aggressive towards people should only be treated by an experienced professional dog trainer who is familiar with behavioral modification techniques. Sometimes drugs prescribed by a veterinarian are used while the dog's behavior is being re-conditioned. Not all aggressive dogs can be treated by a dog trainer. Aggression can be caused by physical conditions such as chronic pain or brain tumor. Always check with your veterinarian before starting training.
Never let a dog run loose In some states, you are automatically liable for anything your dog causes while running loose.
Keep your dog's vaccinations current Rabies vaccinations are required by law. Unvaccinated dogs can become rabid and become completely out of control. Rabies can be fatal to a victim when left untreated.
Keep the dog out of strangers' paths Lots of people, mail carriers, salespeople, girl scouts and others routinely come to your front door. Do not let dogs go with you to open the door. Dogs left in a fenced front yard can attack people who open the gate and walk on up to the door.
Put up warning signs If you have any reason to think that your dog might injure someone coming onto your property, post "Beware of Dog" signs. But remember that young children can't read. If you think children might still be at risk, put a lock on the gate.
Homeowners insurance covers most dog bite injuries. Insurance companies are required to investigate each dog bite claim and deal in good faith with the victim. Damages in a dog bite case include medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering, future plastic surgery costs and psychological counseling, if necessary.
Dog owners who do not have insurance for dog bites can lose their homes, their assets and their income as a result of a single dog bite incident, unless they are insured for it. Although many, many dog bites do not result in serious injury, the sad fact is that a significant number cause devastating scars and disfigurement.
Dog bite victims certainly deserve to receive payment for their serious losses, but if dog owners are not insured and do not have assets or income, then there is no way that the victim can recover.
State laws provide serious consequences if the victim dies or a dog was trained to fight, attack or kill: Owners can be convicted of a felony, involuntary manslaughter or worse in the following circumstances:
If a dog owner knows the dog is dangerous, and allows the dog to run loose, and as a result the dog kills a person.
A dog owner or person having custody of a dog can be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter if he or she is negligent and the negligence causes death.
A dog owner or person having custody of a dog can be prosecuted for second degree murder in certain circumstances.
A dog owner or other person uses a dog as a murder weapon, can be found guilty of first degree murder.
A dog used as a deadly weapon can justify charges of assault with a deadly weapon, and assault on a police officer.
Destroying or concealing the attacking dog can result in a conviction for destruction or concealment of evidence.
A dog does not get "one free bite" in most states. There are, however, several exceptions to liability. The usual exceptions are these:
- The victim was a trespasser
- The victim was a veterinarian who was treating the dog at the time of the incident
- The victim was committing a felony
- The victim provoked the dog
- The dog was assisting the police or the military at the time of the incident
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite. There are approximately 800,000 bites per year in the United States that require medical treatment. If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us to get legal help. All contents copyright Dog Bite Law Center 2001
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