A dog bite is nothing to take lightly. Even a minor bite places you at risk of infection if it breaks the skin. A more serious dog attack can leave you with deep wounds, multiple stitches, muscle damage and disfiguring scars. Some dogs have jaws so powerful they can break your bones when they bite. It does not take much for a determined dog to cause a fatal injury.
While some jurisdictions in New York and elsewhere have banned specific breeds because of their naturally aggressive nature and physical strength, others agree that the risk that a dog will bite often relates to the actions of the owner. If you or your child suffered injuries from a dog bite, you may have questions about the appropriate course of action for seeking compensation.
A dog owner's responsibilities
Any dog has to potential to bite under the right circumstances. The gentlest pet will protect itself if it feels threatened, and an animal that is unwell or injured may strike out instinctively. Some dogs lunge to protect their puppies, while others attack to protect their owners. Some pets may cause injury when they mistake flight for play. While dog owners may be unable to control every circumstance in which a dog may bite, the following actions can develop a more social dog that is less inclined to attack:
- Training and periodic refresher training
- Socialization with other dogs, as well as with people of all ages and abilities
- Exposure to a variety of environments, including those that may be frightening or surprising to a dog
- Positive discipline instead of physical punishment
- Restraint using a leash or enclosure instead of allowing the dog to run free through the neighborhood
- Attention to the dog's signals and warnings
- Muzzling the dog when aware the dog is aggressive or a risk for biting
A dog owner who does not take these basic steps to control a dog places you and your family in danger. Even if the dog is a pet of a family member or friend, you deserve to feel safe from attack when you are legitimately on their property. Additionally, a dog owner has an obligation to keep up with rabies and other vaccinations since these infections can be extremely dangerous to victims of a dog bite.
If you or a family member suffered serious injuries because a dog owner did not take reasonable care to protect you from an aggressive, hostile or nervous dog, you may have legal recourse.