Dog attack cases are responsible for more than four million injuries, on average, in the United States annually. The incident of a dog attack is highly emotional both for the victim, who can suffer debilitating injuries and emotional trauma, and for the pet owner, who can face significant legal liability.
In 2014, the U.S. National Safety Council reported that a civilian’s chance of dying in a dog bite attack was only one in every 116,448 cases (you are twice as likely to die from a bee or wasp sting than a dog bite in America). Nonetheless, in this article, we’ll discuss some of the high-risk breeds based on 2015 injury statistics, and we will share how individuals can reduce the likelihood of a serious dog attack.
Are Some Types of Breeds More Dangerous?
Animal advocates and pet owners agree that any dog has the potential to be violent, to bite, and to inflict injury. However, statistically speaking, some dog breeds are involved in more violent attacks and fatalities in the United States on an annual basis, leading many communities and states to implement “breed-specific bans” and legislation.
It is important to note that pet owners have an important responsibility when it comes to guardianship for their dog; whether it is a large breed or a toy breed, injuries from dog bites can happen from any dog in any of the size or breed spectrums. However, some types of dogs are biologically more equipped to deliver life-threatening injuries and fatalities, based on their body type, the structure and strength of their jaws, and inherent protective nature in some large dog breeds.
Tragically, the same hunting or enforcement habits that have been deliberately trained into certain types of dogs (for security, police and military, or even illegal dog fighting) frequently predispose the following breeds to more dog injuries and attacks.
Per statistics from DogsBite.org from 2015, the most legislated and legally “high-risk” dog breeds in America include:
- Pit Bulls or American Standard Dogs
- Pit Bull Terrier Cross
- Doberman Pinscher
- Wolf/Husky hybrids
- Golden Retriever
Encounters with a dangerous dog can happen anywhere – from the local park to your neighborhood sidewalk or the parking lot of a local store. Even though all states have strict laws about liability and injury when caused by dogs that can wander freely, pet owners are not always consistent or responsible when it comes to securing their pet inside the home or in their own yard.
If you should happen to encounter an unknown dog, or one that appears to be advancing with malicious intent, you can reduce your risk of an attack or reduce the severity of an attack with several defensive steps:
- Do not scream or run away from the dog. That triggers a prey drive instinct that will prompt an attack, and indicates to the dog that you are fearful and susceptible to be victimized.
- Stand still and avoid eye contact with the dog. Place your arms and hands at your sides and avoid making motions with them.
- If the dog begins to back away from you, or turns its back to you, move backwards slowly while maintaining a visual with the dog until he or she is out of sight.
- If a dog lunges forward and starts to attack, use another object to be a buffer between you and the dog’s head and teeth. A purse, jacket, or even a backpack can help prevent teeth from injuring dog victims.
- Dog bite victims who are knocked to the ground should roll their body into a tight ball position, protecting organs and the stomach area, and place arms and hands over the head, ears, and face. This covers the most vulnerable and frequently attacked areas. Try to minimize movement and screaming, as it tends to agitate an attacking dog and can make injuries more severe.
Other general rules to help potential victims reduce the likelihood of a dog attack include avoiding unfamiliar dogs and never letting children be left alone with any dog, whether known to the family or not.
Four Important Steps to Take After a Dog Attack
If you have never been involved in a dog bite incident, it can be difficult to know what your legal rights are, and how your family should proceed immediately following the bite. These four steps are recommended by legal experts in personal injury.
- Take a picture of the dog and your injuries. It may not be possible to identify the owner of the dog if it is wandering off the owner’s property, but for legal purposes you will need to be able to identify the dog. Pictures will be automatically time-stamped on your smartphone and admissible as legal evidence.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Indicate to the emergency healthcare provider that you were a victim of a dog bite. Additional shots, including rabies, may be required as a precaution. Maintain a copy of your injury and treatment records.
- Contact the police to file a report. Provide law authorities with your photo documentation, and a copy of your medical report as part of your case. Authorities will then seek to identify the dog and contact the owner. The dog may also be placed in quarantine at animal control, pending legal follow up, which includes testing for rabies.
- Consult with a personal injury lawyer. The cost of medical expenses, treatment, prescription medications, and even plastic surgery (if required) are admissible in court as personal injuries that the dog owner is legally responsible for. Additional settlement amounts depending on the severity of the injuries may also be provided, particularly if the victim has become disabled because of the attack.
Pet owners should be aware of the significant legal repercussions from injuries or property damage caused by their pets, and obedience training and proper precautions to protect public safety should always be a top priority.
For individuals – especially those who love dogs – it is important to remember that behaviors cannot always be anticipated, even with a dog that you have known for a period without incident. Always take appropriate precautions to reduce your risk of injury from a dog attack.
Author Information: Cory Bowman is associated with the marketing division of E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy Law firm. He has specialized in developing unique and high-quality content for law practices, which can help the entire community.