Dogs bite an average of 5 million people each year. Mixed breeds, pit bulls, terriers, rottweilers, and German shepherds are responsible for biting people the most, but any dog can bite if it feels provoked, is in pain, or is scared/stressed. Even when you do everything possible to avoid getting bitten, it’s happened. What do you do now?
Dog bites are not something to blow off. They can be very serious and cause severe infection and nerve damage. Some dogs are powerful enough that they can fracture bones when they bite you, tug at you, or knock you over. If you’re attacked by someone’s dog, these are the steps to take.
Immediate Actions to Take After Being Bitten
Immediately after a dog bite, you need to take action. Get the names of any witnesses. Get the dog owner’s name if you can. If the dog is with the owner, you’ll have an easier time than if the dog is running loose. Note the area and type/coloring of the dog if people didn’t get pictures. Call an ambulance if the injuries are bad. Otherwise, go to the nearest home or your own home, wash the wound as best you can with warm, soapy water, and cover it with a gauze pad. Now, go see your doctor.
A dog’s saliva has bacteria that get into the bite. As a result, infection is one of the biggest dangers. Smaller front teeth cause smaller jagged wounds. Deeper fangs cause puncture wounds that are prone to infection. You need to go to the doctor and try to do so within eight hours. You want to make sure the bite is properly cleaned. If it’s deep, you may need a drain and antibiotics.
If you haven’t had a tetanus shot recently, you’ll be given a booster. If the dog’s rabies vaccination status is unknown, you may need to have rabies shots too. The rabies immune globulin needs to be administered near the bite as quickly as possible. The other option involves four vaccinations given over a span of 14 days.
Back at home, follow the doctor’s instructions. You need to watch for redness and swelling. If the skin around the bite feels hot or warm to the touch, contact your doctor. Apply antibiotic cream and change bandages as often as instructed.
Being bitten and attacked by a dog can also cause stress and anxiety. If you find yourself panicking when a dog approaches you, you should look into therapy to help with post-traumatic stress, too.
Report the Dog Attack
If the dog that attacked and bit you was not your own pet, contact police and/or the local animal control officer. You need to do this so that the dog owner is contacted. You need proof that the dog is currently vaccinated against rabies. If the rabies vaccination is not current, you’ll need to discuss having the animal quarantined for 10 days to make sure it’s healthy. Your doctor may decide to go ahead with rabies shots to protect you.
Provide the police or animal control officer with the names of any witness and photos if you managed to get any. You can share copies of your doctor’s instructions and diagnosis. The more information you provide, the easier it can be for authorities to track down the dog’s owner and investigate the attack.
The dog’s owner may be in violation of city or state laws. Virtually every town and city in the U.S. has some rule that requires a dog to be on a leash or under the owner’s control. Laws vary from one state to the next, and some leave rules regarding dogs up to individual cities and towns. In Los Angeles County, dogs cannot run at large once it’s off its own yard. It must be on a leash that is no longer than six feet and under the handler’s control. Other counties, towns, and cities can have different regulations. Reporting the attack helps you understand the rules in your area.
The other reason to file a report against the dog and dog owner is to protect others. If the dog has bitten you, there are higher odds that the dog might bite someone else. The dog may have already bitten someone else. If that’s the case, the dog may need to be rehomed or even euthanized if it’s determined it’s too aggressive and not a good candidate for training to end the aggressive behavior.
Laws surrounding a dog bite can be complex. It’s best to talk to an attorney with expertise in dog attacks. Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley is that law firm. The personal injury attorneys have your back. Consultations are free and available 24/7. Call 1-888-CZR-FIRST to discuss your dog bite incident.