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How to prevent dog bites (and costly lawsuits)

Dogs are adorable pets and testimony to this is the fact that 90 million dogs in the U.S. have been adopted by families as household pets. While dogs have the reputation of being loyal, friendly, selfless and protective, there is a flipside that people should be wary of. Dogs can cause harm by biting people. Unfortunately, the bite is quite dangerous because it can result in a preventable viral disease known as rabies if the dog has not been vaccinated against rabies.

There is one dog bite every seven seconds in the U.S. (4.5 million bites in a year) and out of these about 0.8 million people require medical attention. The treatment for bites is quite painful and prolonged.

The high incidence of dog bites enjoins both dog owners and people to do everything possible to prevent dog bites. However, dog owners must know that they are responsible for their dogs and they are liable for injuries in a dog bite as per law existing in each state. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, who specialize in dog bite lawsuits, emphasize the importance of understanding the significant liabilities that owners can face if things go wrong.

In such a scenario, people should take precautions to avoid getting bitten and dog owners should train their dogs to behave more responsibly. Here are some steps that dog owners and people could take to prevent dog bites.  

Dog owners

Dog owners have the ultimate responsibility to keep their dogs under control always. This can be achieved by taking the following steps:

  • Train dogs vigorously and continuously right from the beginning
  • Expose dogs to different kinds of people and different kinds of situations
  • Train dogs to recognize various sounds, movements and stimuli
  • Train dogs more through rewards than punishment
  • Observe dogs to spot any devious behavior and take corrective steps
  • Allow dogs free rein only when you are confident of their safe behavior
  • Leave dogs free with strangers only in your presence
  • Never leave dogs alone with children especially infants
  • Ensure dogs are vaccinated for rabies and checked by vets periodically
  • If dogs cannot be trained or controlled give them away

By following the above regimen dog owners will have peace of mind and visitors to dog owners’ homes will also have peace of mind.

Visitors

Visitors need to be careful when they encounter trained or stray dogs on the street or when they visit homes with dogs. They can train themselves to study and understand the dogs’ behavior and learn to recognize various signals from the dog. Depending on the behavioral signals given by dogs they can determine if dogs are hostile or friendly. However, it is advisable not to approach a new dog (even if dogs give friendly signals) without being introduced by its owner.

People can look for the following positive and negative signals from dogs:

  • Wagging of tails
  • Special barking when people known to the dog come visiting
  • Eating or playing or caring for its puppies
  • Stiff tail, ears flattened back, tense body, staring
  • Growling, baring teeth

Whatever be the signals dogs give it is prudent not to approach a new dog. It is better to be safe than sorry.

If a dog bites

If after taking all the precautions, people who get bitten by dogs should take quick action to clean the wounds and get medical help to assess whether the victims need rabies treatment. This can be ascertained by observing the biting dog and learning whether it has been vaccinated. If not, a course of injections is warranted as prescribed by a medical practitioner. Subject to prevailing laws, victims can claim cost of treatment and damages, which can be substantial.

Clearly, it is better to avoid getting bitten by a dog, as a dog bite can be detrimental to both dog owner and victim. The dog owner may have to shell down cost of treatment and recovery (sometimes as high as $755,000) and the victim has to undergo travails of medical treatment (course of injections) including trauma.            

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