Most people love dogs and enjoy meeting new ones. However, dog bites are common, particularly among children and the elderly, so it’s important to know how to avoid being bitten by a dog. Don Famico, certified animal control officer in Salem, Massachusetts explains how to approach a dog. Listen or read more to find out what to do if you’ve been bitten by a dog.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher with the Law office of Mazow McCullough. I’m here today with Don Famico, certified Animal Control Officer in Salem, Massachusetts. Welcome, Don.
Don Famico: Good morning.
John: National Dog Bite Prevention Week is the second week of April. That’s April 8th to the14th in 2018. Don is here to talk about dog bite prevention and dog attacks. Don, who are the most common victims of dog bites?
Don: Well, we have the elderly, we have the postal carriers, and young children.
John: Okay. Why is it that dogs bite?
Why Dogs Bite
Don: Well, some of them become overprotective to their owners, they become protective to their property and protective of themselves because of past incidents with somebody who may be abusing them.
John: It doesn’t necessarily have to be that it’s a bad dog or a very aggressive dog, it can just be in a certain situation, a dog might attack.
Don: The dog may have been in a situation before and maybe you’re reminding him of those situations and they will act out.
How to Prevent a Dog Bite
John: Okay. What can you do to help prevent a dog bite?
Don: I think in most cases, the person needs to stay calm, try not to abuse it, in the case of a youngster, don’t [sic] pulling the tail or poking at it. Just be calm about the whole situation, don’t be afraid of the dogs; they can sense fear.
John: Okay. Is there something that you can do in terms of — or things that you shouldn’t do when you’re approaching a dog like make fast movements or things like that?
Don: Exactly, fast movements, you don’t want to really make eye contact with them, be moving your arms. You want to keep your fingers inside your fist so that your fingers aren’t flailing around, just go at it easy.
How to Predict if a Dog May Bite
John: Okay. Is there something in a dog’s body language that might indicate that it’s about to bite you?
Don: Well, if the hair stands up on their back or their tail usually will go underneath them and [that] shows a sign that he’s afraid or she’s afraid. I find that the hair standing up and starting to bark and growl is a great indicator.
What to do When a Dog Charges
John: Right, right. If a dog that you see and maybe the dog might be a little bit of a distance from you, but the dog sees you and just starts to charge at you, what should you do in that situation?
Don: Well, in my experiences, just stand still. You don’t want to start running as I’ve told the young children years ago. They’ve got four legs, you only have two. Stand still, don’t make eye contact with the animal, and just slowly move yourself away from the situation.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
John: Okay. If you are bitten by a dog, what should you do next? What are the steps that you should take?
Don: Well, number one, if it’s a stray dog, there are two parts of this. If it’s a stray dog, you want to try to find out who the owner is, obviously. But if the owner is there with the dog and you’ve been bitten and you know the owner, you want to just make sure that they show you proof that the dog is up-to-date on its rabies shots. Get any information you can from that person through a positive ID.
If they fail to give you positive ID, make sure you call the police right away because if you have to have medical treatment and you go to a hospital or your physician, they’re going to want to know about the dog’s history, on this particular rabies shots, which are required here in Massachusetts. If you can’t prove that to the doctor, they’re going to start you on a series of rabies prevention shots, which are very expensive. I think now it’s a series of like seven shots, where years ago there was a lot, double that.
Don: It could run upwards to $3,000 or $4,000.
John: Wow, that’s really important to get the dog owner’s information so that the hospital or whoever can check and make sure that that dog is up-to-date with the shots.
Don: Correct. Typically, if you don’t know the person — if it’s your next-door neighbor and stuff like that, you’re going to know who they are — but they still need to prove to you that the animal is up-to-date on shots. If they don’t provide that, then you want to get a hold of the police or the animal control. I would say call the police right away and they’ll dispatch whoever is necessary to get that information for you.
How to Avoid Dogs
John: Okay. Salem, Massachusetts is a very dog-friendly city, there’s a lot of people who walk their dogs outside. It’s not always practical to walk around or cross the street just because you’re seeing a dog approaching you. What should you do in that sort of situation? Is it different for adults and children?
Don: Well, I think the party should really try to again, not make contact with the dog, try to move over the best you can, and as you say, you can’t always be running from one side of the street to the other because it can create something else, but just to step aside, let the person go. Most leashes, people keep them on are four to six feet long, give yourself that space.
How to Approach an Unknown Dog
John: Right. How should you approach both familiar and unfamiliar dogs? People like dogs and a lot of dogs like people, and they like to be petted and people like to pet dogs. If you wanted to pet somebody’s dog, how should you approach that dog?
Don: Well, you want to ask the owner first of all for permission to go over, “Is it okay to pet your dog or to have any type of contact with them?” They’ll either say, “No, you need to stay away from him. It’s a service dog,” or, “He doesn’t like people.” That’s the best thing to do: Ask permission first.
John: Okay. In that situation, the owner is the best one. They know the dog the best and so they’re able to tell you, “Hey, this dog doesn’t like children, so it’s best if you stay away.”
John: Right. All right, that’s really great information, Don. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Don: Thank you, John, for having us.
John: For more information on dog bite cases or to contact a dog bite lawyer, visit the law office of Mazow McCullough at HelpingInjured.com or call (855) 693-9084.