They say that a dog is a man's best friend. More often than not, this is entirely true. Unfortunately, though, a mean or aggressive dog can quickly become someone's worst enemy.
This is especially true for children. According to data from the New York State Department of Health, approximately 6,600 children are treated for dog bite injuries in New York each year. Of these, more than 200 are so severe that the child is admitted to the hospital.
Here are a few things you should know about preventing dog bites, and what to do if an attack occurs.
What kinds of dogs attack?
Most attacks can be traced back to stressful circumstances and the individual dog's personality, not a particular breed. Any dog can become dangerous if it feels fearful or threatened. Poorly socialized dogs are also more likely to bite. Even previously friendly dogs can bite if they are under a lot of stress.
How can I help my child stay safe?
Teach your children to behave safely around dogs. They should know to never bother a dog who is eating or sleeping, and to never approach an unfamiliar dog without asking permission first. Teach them to approach slowly, and to let the dog smell them before touching it. Further, teach your kids to never poke or hit a dog, and to never tug on a dog's ears or tail.
How can I prevent my dog from biting?
Dogs are less likely to bite when they are happy and well-socialized. As the owner, you're responsible for making sure your dog behaves safely. Keep your dog on a leash whenever you're out in public. Don't bring your dog into situations that could be stressful or frightening, and intervene immediately if your dog is giving signals that it is uncomfortable. Don't let people approach your dog if it is injured, eating, protecting its territory or is otherwise likely to react aggressively. It is always better to say no and risk being rude than to have your dog bite someone.
What should I do if a dog attack occurs?
If you or your child is attacked by a dog, it is important to seek medical care right away. In addition, get the name and contact information for the dog's owner. Dog bites must be reported to the Health Department. This is done to ensure the dog's behavior is properly monitored, and to ensure that any potentially dangerous health conditions (e.g., rabies) are discovered.
If the injuries are severe, you should also contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. Dog bite injuries can be expensive, and you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Michael J. Gaffney, Attorney at Law, is located in Staten Island and represents injured people throughout the New York City area. Call our office at 347-286-1937 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.