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Dog Bite Accidents

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 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.

Dog Bite Statistics: How Often Do They Happen?

dog bite statisticsEveryone hears about someone being bitten by a dog. The horror stories, damages and potential scars they leave behind. But, how often do dog bites actually happen? What breeds of dog are most likely to bite?  According to www.DogsBite.org, from January 2014 to August 2014 the number of fatal dog attacks continued to rise from previous years.

Every day about 1,000 people in the United States require medical attention for an injury related to a dog bite. www.DogsBite.org has complied impressive lists of dog bite statistics from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention and other noteworthy institutions, and has studied the frequency of dog-bite related injuries in the country’s emergency rooms. According to the CDC, from 2009 to 2013 the top biting dogs were Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, that accounted for 74% of the fatal attacks on human beings.

From 2005 to 2013, 283 Americans died due to their injuries from dog bites. Statistically, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers reigned supreme when it came to fatalities, responsible for 176 and 33 deaths respectively. Other dogs including German Shepherds, Bulldogs and Huskies were also named.

Dog bites, fatal and not, occur every 75 seconds in the U.S. Victims suffer over $1 billion annually in monetary losses that include medical bills, loss of jobs and more, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which recognizes dog attacks as a public health problem. The CDC states that in the U.S. almost 2% of the population is bitten by a dog at some point during their lives, amounting to an impressive 4.5 million bites per year. Of those bites, the CDC estimates that 800,000 of those bites are serious enough to require medical attention.

In many circumstances, the dog bite is the result of a dog owner who does no fully understand the responsibility that owning a dog involves. Staying alert of your dog’s and other dogs’ behaviors is the key to remaining safe. If you’ve been hurt in a dog attack in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, contact the dog bite attorneys at Mazow | McCullough.

I’ve Been Bitten by a Dog: What Do I Do Now?

What to do after a dog bite injuryYou’ve heard all about national statistics regarding dog bites. You know they happen, and they happen often. You know what types of dogs are most likely to bite you and you know the tolls a dog bite can take on a family, both emotionally and financially.

But what do you do when a dog bites? Can you claim compensation for a dog bite? Do you need an attorney after a dog bites? Consulting with an experienced Massachusetts and New Hampshire dog bite lawyer is the best way to get all of your questions answered and to begin your recovery from a dog bite.

It goes without saying that the first thing to do if you’ve been bitten by a dog is to seek medical attention.  You do not know the extent of the damage or infection, such as rabies, until you’ve been checked out by a doctor or at the emergency room.  You should also contact the police department and animal control officer in the town where the dog resides to make sure that all of the shots are current.

It is also important to know that you should contact an attorney after a dog bite attack occurs as the law limits the time a dog bite victim has to file a claim. If a dog bites you in Massachusetts, a dog owner or keeper is strictly liable for the dog bite injuries a person may suffer, unless the person is trespassing, teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog, under the Mass. General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155.

Common dog bite injuries include puncture wounds around the entire body, neck and facial injuries and scars, emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress. If you have been injured, you may be entitled to compensation for you or your loved one’s pain and suffering, medical bills, plastic surgery if necessary, lost wages and emotional distress.

You might ask yourself, “Do I need to hire an attorney after I’ve been bitten by a dog?” An attorney can help you coordinate medical treatment if necessary; speak with the dog owner or keeper; handle all calls to and from insurance companies; fill out and process all of the necessary paperwork; and handle settlement negotiations with the insurance company so that you don’t have to.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite or dog attack, or if you have any questions, contact the personal injury lawyers at Mazow | McCullough, PC for a free consultation. The right lawyer can make all the difference. You can contact us at 978-744-8000 or rem@helpinginjured.com.

Mazow | McCullough, PC locates insurance coverage and obtains a settlement in Dog Attack case

Dog Attack Lawyer Attorney

She was only a few hundred feet from her front porch.  She had passed by the dog owner’s property on a daily basis.  It was common for the four large German Shepherds in the defendant’s house to bark aggressively and press their faces up to the windows as she passed on her way home. The barking was so fierce that she would occasionally be startled by it- even though she had come to anticipate the sound. She reassured herself that she was safe because the dogs were in the house, locked behind the front door. On this particular day as she walked home from the store with two small bags of groceries, she expected the barking, but not what happened next.

German Shepherd Dogs Attack Woman

She heard the animals barking as she approached the property. Instinctively she looked to see that the door was locked, keeping the animals inside the home. To her horror this time she noticed that the door to the house was open and only a thin, aluminum screen door separated her from the barking German Shepherds. She put her head down and focused on getting home. As she passed the barking suddenly stopped, and the street got momentarily quiet.  It was then she heard the sound of the screen door opening. The anxiety and feeling of terror for those few seconds still haunts her. In an instant, the dogs were upon her, attacking her, tearing at her clothes and her skin and her legs, trying to literally rip her apart.

The defendant’s dogs escaped and attacked her that afternoon. The memories of the day are blurred visions of feeling as if she was being eaten alive and desperately fighting to safe herself. Despite the viciousness of the attack and the fact that the dogs repeatedly bit and pounced on her, she fought for her life. Somehow she managed to not fall down to the ground. That fact alone almost undoubtedly saved her. She continuously put her hands and arms up to protect her head and face sacrificing the rest of her body to the animals.

Several neighbors rushed to help beat the dogs off of her.

Mazow | McCullough Obtains Settlement for Dog Attack Victim

The insurance company for the defendant initially denied the claim and refused to provide coverage.  Mazow | McCullough, PC filed a lawsuit at the court and fought to obtain the insurance coverage for the client.  The insurance company then disputed the damages suffered by the client by arguing that “she had only suffered about $7,000.00 in medical expenses”.  Mazow | McCullough, PC continued to fight for the client and obtained a settlement of $250,000.00 for the client.

Due to a confidentiality agreement within the terms of the settlement the actual names of the parties are not mentioned.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite or dog attack, or if you have any questions, contact the personal injury lawyers at Mazow | McCullough, PC for a free consultation. The right lawyer can make all the difference. You can contact us at 978-744-8000 or kjm@helpinginjured.com.

Dog Attacks A Second Time

A Mansfield dog, already sentenced to death for mauling a 6 year old boy, bit a 16 year old girl this weekend. Following the boards’ decision to euthanize the dog, it was allowed to go home with its owners for a period of 10 days, allowing the family time to appeal the decision. It was during this time that the dog attacked for a second time. Following the second incident, the owners released the dog to Mansfield officials, who reported the dog will be euthanized this week.

Injuries Caused by Mansfield Dog

The girl’s condition is unknown at this time, but she was taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital following the incident. The 6 year old that was attacked by the dog, however, underwent surgery, needing more than 400 stiches to repair injuries to his face and body. According to a Mansfield animal control officer, the dogs bites were “excessive” and recommended the dog be euthanized.

Call a MA Dog Bite Lawyer

At the Law Office of Mazow | McCullough, P.C. we will aggressively pursue the owner(s) of the dog in question in order to hold them accountable, whether through mediation and arbitration, or by means of a jury trial. The injuries from a dog bite or dog attack can be serious, including permanent scarring, rabies, nerve damage, infection and more. The Right Lawyer Makes All The Difference.

What’s the #1 misconception people have about dog bite injuries?

The number one misconception in the state of Massachusetts involving dog bite attacks is who’s going to pay the claim. Who’s going to compensate you for your injuries? And often times there is no insurance coverage available. Either the specific owner did not involve the insurance company or fill out the documents on their insurance application involving the dog or notifying the insurance company that they owned a dog. That may allow the insurance company to deny the claim. At the end of the day you may be left pursuing the owner of the dog personally to compensate you for your injuries.

Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer in MA

My name is Kevin McCullough with the Law Offices of Mazow & McCullough. If you’ve been injured, you need legal assistance, you have questions. You deserve answers to those questions and you deserve the best. Call our offices.

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