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Dog Bite Accidents

6 Canine Safety Tips For Parents With Dogs

barking-german-shepherd

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” and for good reason. They can be extremely loving and can bring a great deal of joy to a family, even those with small children. However, dogs can also be dangerous, particularly when children aren’t aware of the boundaries between themselves and the dog. If you are a parent and have a dog, here are 6 things you must do to help keep your child (and your dog) safe.

1. Never Leave Your Child Alone With a Dog

You should never assume that your child is safe with a dog (even your own) or that a dog is safe with a child. Always supervise your child closely when playing with a dog, and be sure to remove your child or the dog from the situation if the dog begins to show any signs of discomfort or aggression.

2. Ensure Your Dog Is Adequately Trained

Training can go a long way to ensuring that your dog will follow commands, even in stressful situations. Take your dog to obedience classes when he or she is old enough to participate, and make sure your dog learns important commands like “no,” “stop,” or “easy.”

3. Teach Your Children That Dogs Don’t Like Kisses & Hugs

Children have a way of getting up close and personal to dogs that they don’t always like. If a child invades a dog’s personal space and doesn’t recognize cues that the dog is uncomfortable, the dog may lunge or bite. Teach your child that dogs don’t like hugs or kisses, and to give a dog enough personal space to get away if it feels threatened.

4. Teach Your Children How to Act Around a Strange Dog

A strange dog is more likely to bite a human child that it doesn’t know, especially if the child gets into its personal space. Teach your child to stand still around a strange dog and to avoid petting it or engaging it in any way. Eventually the dog will get bored and wander away.

5. Neuter or Spay Your Dog as Soon as Possible

Statistics show that unneutered male dogs are the most likely to bite or attack. Make sure to spay or neuter your dog as soon as they are old enough or when recommended by your veterinarian.

6. Adequately Socialize Your Dog

A poorly socialized dog is likely to become more nervous or frustrated around young children or large groups of people. Starting at a young age, socialize your dog with others and help them to be comfortable around multiple people and children. Dogs can be socialized a variety of ways, so be sure to ask your veterinarian or your trainer for their recommendations for your unique dog.

Although not all dog bites can be prevented, being smart and doing everything possible to prevent an attack as both a pet owner and a parent will help you decrease the chances of serious injury. Follow these 6 simple tips to keep both your dog and your children safe and happy!

How to Prevent Your Dog From Biting (and What to Do If He Does)

prevent-your-dog-from-biting-angry-dogDogs don’t often bite, but when they do, it can be serious. Taking action to prevent your dog from biting others is a great way to keep your dog and other people safe and to decrease the chances that your dog will be involved in an attack. Here are several ways to prevent your dog from biting, and what to do if it happens.

1. Spay or Neuter Your Pup

The most important thing you can do for your dog’s health and temperament is to have them spayed or neutered. Statistics show that unneutered male dogs are the most likely to bite, as are mother dogs who are pregnant or who have recently given birth to a litter of puppies. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation and have your dog spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough to help prevent your dog from biting.

2. Participate in Formal Training

A trained dog is less likely to bite and is easier to handle if a potentially dangerous situation does present itself. Consider enrolling your dog in formal obedience training when he or she is old enough to follow commands. Also, be sure that each member of your family learns the same commands and training techniques so as not to confuse your dog.

3. Ensure Your Dog Is Socialized Well

An unsocialized dog is more likely to become frightened and even aggressive when it is around multiple people or small children. Start socializing your dog from a young age by introducing it to people and other dogs frequently. Stay at your dog’s side and offer them comfort in new situations to help them learn to be calm and accepting.

4. Avoid Stressful Situations With Your Dog

A dog will always try to get out of a stressful situation before attacking. If you know your dog gets upset in certain situations, such as around lots of people or moving vehicles, do your best to keep your dog out of these situations entirely. If you notice your dog becoming uncomfortable, remove him or her from the situation as soon as possible.

5. Be Responsible With Your Dog

Make sure your homeowner’s insurance policy covers dog bites and always follow the leash laws in your area. Do not allow your dog to roam at large, and don’t keep him or her tied up on a chain or alone in the backyard in a dog house. Dogs that aren’t socialized or who spend a great deal of time alone and in small spaces are more likely to attack.

What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

If your dog bites someone, confine your dog as quickly as possible. Evaluate the individual’s injuries and if necessary, help them get medical assistance. Cooperate with law enforcement and animal control, and provide all of your dog’s medical records to the appropriate authorities. It may also be in your best interest to contact an attorney to learn more about your rights.

By being proactive about preventing your dog from biting, you can decrease the chances that you and your dog will be involved in an attack scenario. A calm, healthy, and happy dog can be a joyful addition to your family!

Photo credit: Javier Prazak / Foter / CC BY

5 Steps to Take After Being Bitten By a Dog

aggressive-german-sheppard

Being attacked or bitten by a dog is a frightening experience. It can happen when you least expect it, and the resulting injuries are often severe. Follow these steps after being bitten by a dog to increase the chances of a positive resolution and to secure your right to financial compensation.

1. Get Immediate Medical Treatment

Dog bites of any kind require prompt medical treatment, regardless of how minor the wound may seem. This is particularly true in the case of puncture wounds, where the dog’s long canine teeth can cause injuries that are more severe than they look.

Visit your local emergency room as soon as possible after the attack. In cases where children are mauled by a dog, or when the dog bite is in a precarious location, it is critical that you call 911 or get to the hospital as quickly as possible.

2. Identify the Dog and Its Owner

In order to bring a liability case forward, you must be able to identify the dog and its owner.  In cases where the individual was bitten in their own neighborhood, they may already know the dog and/or its owner. However, in cases where a vicious dog has been allowed to run at large, it may be more difficult to find who the dog belongs to.

Write down as much as you remember about the dog attack, including where you were and what the dog looked like. Report the incident to authorities, including law enforcement and animal control. In some cases where the victim is having difficulty locating the dog in question, animal control may be able to help.

In cases where the dog is identified, you may be able to have the dog tested for rabies. If the dog tests negative, you will not need treatment for rabies. However, if the dog tests positive, or if you are unable to locate the dog in question and have it tested, you will need to receive rabies treatment as a preventative measure.

3. Get the Names and Addresses of Any Witnesses

If there were any witnesses present at the time of the attack, it is important to obtain their contact information as soon as possible. If you wish to bring a liability case forward to seek compensation for your injuries, witnesses may be able to provide valuable testimony about what happened during the attack.

4. Take Photos of Your Wounds

Although your medical records will be an important part of your injury case, photographic evidence can be even more valuable when demonstrating the severity of the injuries caused by the dog attack. Take photos of your injuries before medical treatment if possible, as well as after. Continue taking photos of your wounds as they heal and keep the images in a safe place along with copies

5. Contact a Dog Bite Injury Attorney

Once you have received the medical treatment you need for your injuries, it is imperative that you contact an attorney who focuses on dog bite law . At Mazow | McCullough, P.C., we have represented hundreds of individuals who have been the victim of a dog attack. We have developed unique legal strategies that have been proven successful time and again, and we are dedicated to helping our clients recover the maximum amount of damages possible in their case.

Contact us today for a consultation to discuss your case, or to learn more about dog bite injury law in Massachusetts or New Hampshire.

Additional Resources

How to Prevent Dog Bites (And What To Do if You Get Bit)

Photo credit: smerikal / Foter / CC BY-SA

Reporting a Dangerous Dog

dog showing teeth aggressively

Reporting a potentially dangerous dog can prevent injury for you and others.

Many of us are guilty of walking past a situation in which we feel we could or should have stepped in and done something to help. I know I have a couple situations that come to mind, where I felt like somebody else was going to say or do something so it wasn’t my responsibility to do anything. However, to this day I wonder, how did that situation resolve itself? Did everything turn out okay? Now picture yourself walking down the park and noticing a dog that is behaving aggressively and you decide that you will just keep walking and mind your business; somebody else will take care of it. Later on you hear that a person, or worse, a child was attacked by a dog. Would you feel guilty? Would you wonder if it was the same dog you saw and decided not to report? Nine times out ten the answer to both those questions is yes. Save yourself the worrying and remorse and take action in reporting a dangerous dog.

Keep Yourself Safe

If you come across an aggressive dog, especially a dog that seems to be a stray and unattended dog, the best thing to do in this scenario is to back away slowly. Do not try to approach the dog no matter how good you think you are at dealing with dogs or how much dogs like you. An aggressive dog will not like to be approached and will feel intimidated by you trying to invade their space, and could potentially lash out and attack. Do not be tempted to calm the dog down in any way.

It is important that you do not run from the dog as you are trying to get away. It is no secret that all dogs are chasers. They chase balls and they chase their tails; it’s just in their nature to chase things, and you become the perfect target when they see you running. Walk away slowly until you are a safe distance from the dog. If you see an unattended dog, do not try to judge if it is aggressive based solely on the breed. Aggressiveness is, more often than not, related to the training the dog has had or the lack thereof and is not solely based on the breed.

Making the Report

In order to report a dog exhibiting aggressive behavior, you will need to locate the correct phone number to call. If the dog has already attacked somebody and that person is severely injured call the emergency services 9-1-1.  If you want to report a dog with aggressive behavior that has not yet attacked anybody, call your local animal shelter. Some communities may have an animal control department. If there is an animal control department it may be best to contact them first, again only if the dog has not yet attacked anyone. They will be able to get to the scene quicker before the dog wanders away to another location.

If you are located in a rural area, since another option may not be available you may need to get in contact with the local sheriff. When you call to make the report, be prepared to describe the dog’s physical characteristics and location. It is a good idea to report the aggressive dog as soon as possible so that the authorities can locate it before it wanders too far from its initial area. After you have contacted the authorities and reported the situation, they will tell you what to do next. The authorities may even ask you to remain on the line and keep an eye on the dog, while still remaining a safe distance away. Remember, your safety is paramount.

Signs a Dog is Potentially Dangerous

Remember, a dog does not have to severely attack anybody in order for concern or reports to be made. A dog that is chasing or menacing a person or a domestic animal in an aggressive manner should be considered potentially dangerous. If a dog is repeatedly acting in an aggressive manner, and is either in a fenced in location or an enclosed space and it appears that it may be capable of jumping over or escaping, it is safe to consider this dog a potentially dangerous dog. When trying to prevent dog bites or attacks it is very important that action be taken before the situation escalates to a more severe one. If you are concerned about a dog in your neighborhood, do some research and contact the designated authorities and help prevent a dog bite attack from happening.

How to Take Care of a Dog Bite

vicious looking dog that could biteAs much as we would like to believe that man’s best friend wouldn’t hurt a fly, they will. No seriously, they’ll hurt flies. I know a certain German shepherd who will go after flies, bees, butterflies and pretty much anything that has wings or moves faster than she does. She will chase after flies and snap at them hoping to catch the mysterious little buzzing object, while I myself sit back and secretly cheer her on, hoping someone will put an end to the bothersome buzzing. This blog, however, is not about dogs and their fly-chasing ways. It’s about how to act and what steps to take if instead of doing some innocent snapping at a fly or insect, a dog picks a different target: a person.

What should I do if someone is bitten by a dog?

Take the victim away from the attacking dog in order to prevent any further injury or attack. Since dog bites can cause significant damage exceeding what we can see, medical care should be obtained as soon as possible to help determine the extent of the damage. Wounds should be kept elevated and if possible washed with soap and water. It is important to try and obtain information regarding the dog’s owner and the immunization record of the dog.

Will a dog bite need any medication?

If the doctor believes that there is a high risk of infection, usually occurring with injuries to the hands, feet and face, a seven day course of antibiotics may be prescribed.  The potential for infection with dog bites is high since dog bites instill bacteria deep into tissues, making it more prone to infections.

How will I know if a dog bite has become infected?

First and foremost, if you believe that a dog bite has become infected, seek medical advice immediately. Signs indicating an infection include:

  • The wound becomes more painful.
  • A fever with a temperature of 38°C/ 100.8° F or above.
  • Redness and excessive swelling around the dog bite.
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Fluid or pus leaking from the bite.

I am sure that there are many more questions that arise throughout the process of treating and learning how to take care of a dog bite.  For any further questions on how to care for a dog bite, consult your physician and follow his/her instructions. If you are seeking to take legal action, give our office a call and we will answer any questions you may have.

Photo credit: State Farm / Foter / CC BY

Dog Bite Injuries to Postal Workers in Massachusetts

dog bite awareness week pamphlet usps

A pamphlet promoting the U.S. Postal Services’ Dog Bite Prevention Week.

We have all grown up with the notion that dogs hate the mailman, just as we’ve grown up with the notion that they love to pee on fire hydrants. It’s a cliché as old as time: the mailman comes, the dog barks and chases the mailman away. We see it in children’s books and we see it in comic book strips. As with all things that we become familiar with and grow up with, we pay no mind to it and store it in the back of our minds. Like the fact that in every story (mostly the Disney movies) involving a family who owns a dog, the dog goes to get the newspaper from the lawn every single morning without fail. We pay no attention to it, we don’t ask why; it is just the way it is.  It’s what we grew up knowing and have no interest in asking why or even if there is any truth behind it. Fact is that there may be some truth to this iconic rivalry between dog and mailman.

Think about it, in a previous blog I spoke about how dogs need personal space. Well personal space goes hand in hand with protecting their property. They see their property – whether it be a toy, food or in this case your home – being intruded by somebody not familiar to them. They then feel threatened, which causes a chain reaction that leads to them ultimately lashing out and attacking an innocent. The US Postal service stated that in 2013, 5,581 postal service employees were attacked by dogs across the United States (this includes Massachusetts). They also released a list of top cities in which dog bites to postal workers were reported. Houston was at the top of the list with 63 dog attacks, followed by Los Angeles with 61 attacks. Even though Massachusetts did not make the top of the list, which is not a bad thing, it is an issue prevalent to all.

Obedience training is one of the most important steps to take in order to prevent these attacks from occurring. It will teach dogs proper behavior when around people and help owners control their dogs in any situation. As I stated before, dogs can be very protective of anything they view to be their property. This may cause them to interpret a postal service worker, or anyone approaching your home to render you service, as a threat and an intruder. For this reason, it is important that you take precautions when accepting mail in the presence of your pet. When a letter carrier is approaching your home, make it a point to keep your dog inside and away from the door. If you have children, make sure that they know to do the same. Remember, if an employee of the postal service feels threatened by a situation in your home, he may refuse to deliver your mail and require you to pick up your mail at your local post office.

With the rise in Postal Service employees being attacked by dogs, it should come as no surprise that the U.S. Postal Service is fighting back. It has pioneered a dog-bite awareness program aimed at getting owners to keep their pets from attacking and intimidating mail carriers. This awareness program has helped to reduce dog bites to roughly 3,000 per year. The Postal Service also encouraging its employees to sue if they do become victims of dog bites. As stated by postal service manager Linda DeCarlo, “Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a postal problem.” Do your part to try and prevent dog bite attacks, and if you are a victim, seek legal help.

Photo credit: Dave Aiello / Foter / CC BY-SA

Preventing Dog Bites with Children

boy laying in field with two dogs

Dogs can be great friends, but it’s important to take steps to prevent dog bites.

Most animal lovers don’t think twice when it comes to introducing a new puppy or an older dog into the family. As an animal lover myself, and being familiar with the dynamic of both children and dogs in the same house, I can’t help but wonder if as well as taking the necessary steps to prepare for the new member of the family, are the proper steps being taken to prevent a dog bite from happening at home?

In order to take the necessary steps to prevent a dog bite or attack from happening at home, it’s important to understand why dogs lash out. There are several factors that may cause a dog to become uncomfortable and bite, and most of them are amplified when children are involved.

Choosing the Right Breed

One of the best preventative steps to take against dog bites occurring at home is choosing the right breed. When choosing a dog for your family, do your research. There are over 100 different dog breeds to choose from. Look into the dog’s temperament. Is the breed friendly and outgoing, or shy and introverted? You want a dog that loves people, especially children.

At the same time, keep in mind your living situation. Do you have a lot of space for a big dog, or do you have limited space and would be better off with a smaller breed? This is important because a big dog cooped up in a small living space is going to be more hyper and it is going to take up a lot of space. Some of this space is going to have to be personal space. Can you afford to accommodate that?

Personal Space

Getting along well with our four legged pals can be easy for adults, but as adults we also know the importance of personal space. That is a concept that most children are not too keen on. Your space is their space, and everyone else’s space is theirs as well. Dogs are no different than us when it comes to the aspect of needing personal space. If invaded, they may feel threatened and uncomfortable and lash out. A good way to prevent this from happening may be to perhaps wait to introduce a dog in to the family until the child is of at least school age.

There were 359,223 dog bites on children between the ages of 1-14 between the years of 2010-2012. 37% of those dog bites were to children between the ages of 5 and 9 and 66% of the injuries were to children 4 years and younger. When children are at least of school age they can be taught more easily about boundaries and how their new soon-to-be best friend doesn’t really prefer hugs as a form of affection. If you choose to introduce a dog before this time, make sure that all interaction is monitored as neither the child nor the dog can fully control the situation.

Dog Body Language

There is no easier or more natural way for a dog to communicate than through his body language. We all know the most common signs. If a dog is wagging its tale it is happy. If a dog has its ears raised and upright it is alert. If your dog is lying down and sleeping chances are it is tired.  However, it may take a while to understand all the other nonverbal signs that your dog may exhibit in the future. The best way to handle this, and use it as a tool to prevent dog bites from happening at home, is to observe your dog and try and depict his body language. Once you learn how to interpret your dog’s gestures and clues, you will be able to better understand his emotions and predict how he is going to react to certain situations. This gives you a step up on taking action when you see a situation that may not end in a favorable way.

Misunderstandings occur a lot with grownups, but we can  verbally communicate with each other. Now imagine all the misunderstandings that can occur between a dog and a child on a daily basis. These tips can help you limit the chances of a dog bite happening at home, which can lead to a happier and more worry-free household. And one less worry with little ones goes a long way for peace of mind.

Teaching Children How to Avoid Dog Bites

boy with his Husky dogI am a huge dog lover.  Always have been.  I’ve had dogs in my life since I was born.  My kids are the same.  When they were little, they would always want to pet and play with dogs that they saw.  But, even though most properly trained dogs are perfectly safe and friendly, the fact of the matter is that dogs can be unpredictable animals.  In Massachusetts, there are so many dogs that it is important to teach children how to be safe around them.

When you’re teaching children how to avoid being bitten by a dog, keep it simple.  Discuss animals and how they can be friendly and protective.  Don’t just talk about the potential dangers of dogs and being bitten but talk about the role of the dog in the family.  You do not want to unintentionally create unnecessary fear of dogs.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association there are easy tips you can use to help kids understand how to respect dogs and avoid dog bites.

How to Avoid Dog Bites

  • Avoid unknown dogs. If you see a dog you don’t know and it’s wandering around loose and unsupervised, avoid the dog and consider leaving the area. Consider alerting animal control.
  • When the owner is with their dog, always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog. Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first — even if it’s a dog you know, or a dog that’s seemed friendly toward you before.
  • Teach children to confidently, quietly walk away if they’re confronted by an aggressive dog. Instruct them to stand still if a dog goes after them, then take a defensive position. It often helps to tell them to “be a tree:” stand quietly, with their hands low and clasped in front of them, remain still and keep their head down as if looking at their feet. If they are knocked down, teach them to cover their head and neck with their arms and curl into a ball.
  • Teach children to avoid escalating the situation by yelling, running, hitting or making sudden movements toward the dog.
  • Teach children that if a dog goes to bed or to his/her crate, don’t bother them. Enforce the idea that the bed or crate is the dog’s space to be left alone. A dog needs a comfortable, safe place where the child never goes. If you’re using a crate, it should be covered with a blanket and be near a family area, such as in your living room or another area of your home where the family frequently spends time. Do not isolate your dog or his/her crate, or you may accidentally encourage bad behavior.
  • Educate children at a level they can understand. Don’t expect young children to be able to accurately read a dogs’ body language. Instead, focus on gentle behavior and that dogs have likes and dislikes and help them develop understanding of dog behavior as they grow older.
  • Teach children that the dog has to want to play with them and when the dog leaves, he leaves — he’ll return for more play if he feels like it. This is a simple way to allow kids to be able to tell when a dog wants to play and when he doesn’t.
  • Teach kids never to tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats, or by pretending to hit or kick.
  • Teach kids to never pull a dog’s ears or tail, climb on or try to ride dogs.
  • Keep dogs out of infants’ and young children’s rooms unless there is direct and constant supervision.
  • As a parent, report stray dogs or dogs that frequently get loose in your neighborhood.
  • Tell children to leave the dog alone when it’s asleep or eating.
  • Sometimes, especially with smaller dogs, some children might try to drag the dog around. Don’t let them do this. Also discourage them from trying to dress up the dog — some dogs just don’t like to be dressed up.
  • Don’t give kids too much responsibility for pets too early — they just may not be ready. Always supervise and check on pet care responsibilities given to children to ensure they are carried out
  • Remember: if you get your kids a pet, you’re getting yourself a pet, too.

While these tips are no guarantee that a dog won’t act unpredictably, the more education we can provide children the better armed they will be when confronting a dog.

Dog Bites & Children

Teaching dog safety to children

Teaching children dog safety tips can help prevent dog bites.

One of the most difficult things to hear about is when a child gets mauled to death by a dog. It seems as though it happens more often that it should. But, just how often does a child get killed by a dog? Children are most often the victims of dog bites and dog attacks because they are most likely to engage a dog because they oftentimes do not understand the boundaries when it comes to animals.

It is estimated that over 4 million people are bitten by dogs annually and that nearly 800,000 of those attacks end in injuries severe enough for a hospital visit. Close to ½ of those patients are children. Unfortunately, children oftentimes require inpatient stays at hospitals because their smaller bodies incur more damage due to their small size.

Even if the dog attack was not fatal, it can turn very dangerous very quickly if your child’s injuries are left untreated. Most injuries that occur to children involve their heads, necks and facial regions. It is important to seek medical treatment by professionals because if left untreated, dog bites can become infected. Children will oftentimes incur no only physical injuries but emotional damage as well.

If your child is bitten in Massachusetts, there is good news. The dog bite and dog attack law in Massachusetts states that if your child is under 7 years of age they are presumed not to be trespassing, teasing or abusing the dog and the dog owner or caretaker must prove otherwise.

Educating yourselves and your children is the best ways to prevent dog attacks and/or dog bites. The following are some helpful tips on staying safe:

  1. Never play with a dog without having an adult present.
  2. Avoid approaching a dog that is unfamiliar to you.
  3. Never disturb a dog that is eating, tending to puppies or taking a nap.
  4. If a dog does approach you, let it sniff you before petting it and do not run away.
  5. Stay calm.

Staying vigilant of your kids and dogs while they interact is key when assessing if a dog feels uncomfortable around kids. If it does, the best thing to do is either remove the child or remove the dog, never forcing interactions and always remaining calm. Dogs are a major part of most family’s lives and come with major responsibility. Educating pet owners about their dogs and children’s behaviors can reduce a great deal of dog attacks on children.

Prison Sentence for Dog Owner in Fatal Mauling

Littlerock California, the town where the fatal dog mauling took place.

Littlerock California, the town where the fatal dog mauling took place.

A California man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for second-degree murder in a rare murder conviction for a dog mauling.

The victim, Pamela Devitt, was out walking in the early morning of May 9, 2013 when the dogs leaped over the fence of their home and attacked her. Devitt was attacked by 8 dogs, 6 of them pitbulls bred and trained to aggressively protect their home. Devitt died from her wounds on the way to the hospital.

Prosecutors argued that the dog owner knew they were dangerous when he left them to guard his illegal marijuana – growing operation. The man had even been warned about his violent dogs because they had been involved in previous altercations before the fatal attack in 2013. The autopsy revealed Devitt had between 150-200 puncture wounds.

Although rare, murder convictions for a killing by dogs do happen. The theory behind such cases is that the dog owner/keeper was being reckless by knowing that their dog/s were dangerous enough to kill and did nothing to prevent such a killing, even without intending any harm.

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