This week, Sunday, April 12 through Saturday, April 18, is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Although most dogs tend to be friendly, some aren’t. In addition, even a generally friendly dog may bite if provoked—even if the provocation is a friendly pat on the head or an unintentional movement that
startles the dog. Some dog bites are minor, but some bites can be gruesome, inflicting horrific and life- threatening injuries requiring painful, lengthy, and costly surgical treatment and recovery. Sadly, some victims—primarily children—don’t survive.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are approximately 77 million dogs in the United States. About 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. Ohio is one of the top ten states that reported dog bites in 2019. The majority of dog bite victims are children, who are far more likely to be seriously injured than adults. Of the 350,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2017, almost 10,600 were two years old or younger. Almost 57% of victims who die from their injuries are children. Most, if not all, dog bites are preventable.
At Slater & Zurz, we have a special interest in dog bite prevention. We’ve seen too many victims of dog bites that could have been prevented, if only the proper steps—especially education concerning how to avoid being bitten—had been taken. As dog bite attorneys, we can help dog bite victims recover compensation for their injuries, including present and future medical bills, lost income, and damages for pain and suffering, but we can’t “undo” a bite. The victim may have to endure the consequences of a bite for the rest of his or her life. Because preventing a dog bite in the first place is the best solution for everyone, we do all that we can to educate people—and especially children, the most vulnerable—about how to avoid being bitten.
Dogs Bite for a Variety of Reasons
There are countless reasons that a dog may bite or nip, typically in reaction to something:
- Self-defense: A dog may bite to defend itself or its territory.
- Protection: A dog may bite to protect something valuable, such as its puppies, its owner, food, or a toy.
- Fear: A dog may bite because it is afraid or feels threatened by a person or another animal, especially if the dog is backed into a corner and can’t retreat or escape safely.
- Jealousy: An overly possessive dog may bite or nip someone who interrupts its playtime with its
- Overly friendly strangers: A dog may bite a stranger who is overly friendly with the dog, e.g., by petting or hugging it when its owner is not present, believing that the stranger is attacking it.
- Surprise: A dog may bite because it has been startled, particularly while eating or sleeping.
- Illness or injury: A dog may bite because it is sick or sore due to illness or injury.
- Play: A dog may bite or nip because it becomes excited during play, such as wrestling or playing
Reduce the risk of a dog bite by recognizing signs of aggression and avoiding risky situations.
Here are some signs of aggression in a dog:
- Repeated yawning. Dogs yawn when they are tired, but also when they are upset, stressed, anxious, or agitated.
- Licking the lips. A dog that licks its nose and lips when it is not hungry, when there is no food nearby, may be angry. Watch out!
- Lack of eye contact. If a dog is reluctant to look you in the eye, the dog may be angry.
- Change in body language. If a dog’s ears go flat, the dog stands still, becomes rigid, and stares at you with wide, alarmed eyes, the dog may be anxious, angry, or afraid. Don’t approach the dog!
- Growling or barking. A growling or barking dog may be angry or feel threatened.
To avoid being bitten, don’t try to pet a dog in these risky situations:
- The dog is not with its owner.
- The dog is with its owner, but the owner hasn’t given you permission to pet the dog.
- The dog is on the other side of a fence: don’t reach through or over the fence to pet the dog.
- The dog is sleeping, eating, or playing with a toy.
- The dog is sick or injured.
- The dog is resting with her puppies.
- The dog is hiding or trying to avoid contact.
If a dog runs toward you, be calm and don’t run away!
If a dog is running at you, your first instinct may be to run away from the dog. If you run, the dog may chase you. The dog can probably run faster than you can, and when it catches you, it may bite. Instead, stay calm. Stand still, and keep your hands and arms close to your body. Be quiet—don’t yell or scream.
Try to avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Let the dog sniff you and check you out. Once the dog determines that you’re not a threat, it will probably just go away.
Learning how to stay safe can be a lifesaver—and fun!
At Slater & Zurz, we’re devoted to keeping kids safe from preventable injuries. As one of the leading dog bite law firms in Ohio, an important part of our practice is representing dog bite victims and, unfortunately, their families when the victims don’t survive.
About seven years ago, we decided we needed to try to prevent children from becoming clients. Jim Slater, our managing partner, has visited schools in the Akron area to talk to children about dog bite prevention and treat them to pizza. “If we can keep one child from being hurt, we win,” Slater said. “If we can prevent ten from being hurt, we hit a home run.”
To help teach children how to stay safe around dogs, we created a children’s storybook, Johnny’s Day for the Dogs, illustrating dangerous situations and how to stay safe. The story follows Johnny, a young boy, when he sets out to play with his friend Jacob. On his way, he encounters a variety of dogs in all kinds of challenging situations, and has to decide how to react. His adventures continue as he and Jacob go to a
park, ride their bikes, and go skateboarding. You can download a copy of the book just Click Here
You can also request a free hard copy of the book by calling us at (888) 998-9101.
We’ve also produced a three-minute video containing much of the same information geared to pre-teens. Click here to watch the video.
Although the book and video are geared for kids, adults can also benefit from the safety tips. If you’re the parent of a very young child, it’s essential that you know how to protect your baby or toddler from a dog bite. Knowing what to do before finding yourself in a dangerous situation, and being able to respond quickly, can make all the difference.
If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, trust a full-service law firm to protect your interests.
Dog bites can be life-altering. Although it’s rare, even the gentlest dog can react in an unexpected manner with tragic results. If you’ve been injured by someone else’s dog, you deserve to be compensated, even if the dog that bit you was usually well-behaved. In 2018, insurance companies paid approximately $675 million in claims arising from dog bites. In 2019, the average dog bite insurance claim was $44,760.
Like so many others who have placed their trust in us, you can count on Slater & Zurz to thoroughly evaluate your claim, answer your questions, and recommend the best path forward for you, based on your circumstances and the expertise we’ve developed over the years handling dog-bite cases. Contact our team of seasoned professionals for a free consultation. You can call us at (888) 998-9101, chat with us online, or submit a form and we will contact you. We’re here to serve your legal needs with compassion, dedication, and the drive to win for you.