One of the most difficult things to hear about is when a child gets mauled to death by a dog. Tragically, these incidents seem to happen more often than they should. But, just how often does a child get killed by a dog? Why do vulnerable young people face dog attacks at higher rates than adults? What can you do to protect your child before, during, and after an attack?
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have worked with many parents after their children have been attacked by dogs, and we understand how concerning this issue can be. For answers, keep reading, or please feel free to contact us directly.
Number of Children Affected by Dog Attacks
It is estimated that over four million people are bitten by dogs annually and that nearly 800,000 of those attacks result in injuries severe enough for a hospital visit. Children are more likely to face a dog attack or bite than adults, and young children are especially at risk. In fact, in a survey of dog bites over a six-year period, 57% of the victims were age 10 or younger, and 10% of the attacks were to infants in the first month of their lives.
Childhood Injuries from Dog Bites
Generally, children are more affected by dog attacks than adults because their bodies are smaller and more fragile. Additionally, because children are shorter and closer to the ground, dogs tend to attack their sensitive faces, necks, and heads. In contrast, adults are more likely to incur bites on their hands or legs. This difference means that children’s injuries tend to be more severe.
Even if a dog attack is not fatal for a child, the situation can turn very dangerous very quickly if the child’s injuries are left untreated. If ignored, dog bites can become infected and lead to more serious issues. When children are attacked by dogs, they often require inpatient stays at hospitals due to the severity of their injuries. That drives up the cost of care — as dog bite attorneys, we work with our clients to help them get compensation for extra expenses like these.
In many cases, the damage is not just physical. Children may suffer serious emotional damage after a dog attack, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes, the emotional damage can be even more debilitating than the physical injuries.
Special Laws for Children
In Massachusetts, dog owners or keepers are always responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, but there is an exception if the victim was trespassing, breaking the law, or provoking the animal. However, that exemption does not apply to children under the age of seven years.
If your child is bitten in Massachusetts, the dog bite and dog attack law states that if your child is under seven years, they are presumed not to be trespassing, teasing or abusing the dog. As a result, owners really have no defenses in dog bite cases involving children.
How to Protect Your Children from Dog Attacks
Although children are more vulnerable to attacks due to their small size, sometimes dog bites and dog attacks occur because children do not understand the boundaries they should observe around dogs. Educating yourself and your children can be one of the most effective ways to prevent dog attacks and/or dog bites. Check out these helpful tips on staying safe:
- Never play with a dog without having an adult present.
- Never disturb a dog that is eating, tending to puppies, or taking a nap.
- Avoid approaching a dog that is unfamiliar to you.
- If a dog does approach you, let it sniff you before petting it, and do not run away.
- Stay calm.
- Learn the signs of an agitated dog.
- Teach your child to curl into a ball and protect their head with their arms if attacked.
Staying vigilant of your kids and dogs while they interact is key when assessing if a dog feels uncomfortable around kids. If the dog seems anxious or uncomfortable, 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 many families’ lives, but they also come with major responsibility. Educating pet owners about their dogs and children’s behaviors can reduce a great deal of dog attacks on children.
What to Do If a Dog Is Attacking a Child
A dog attacking your child can be the most terrifying thing you ever witness as a parent. If this happens, hold your ground and remain calm. If the dog sees you running away, they may chase after you. Tell your child to roll into a ball to protect their face and remind them to stay calm. Then, approach slowly, and attempt to pick up the child. Ideally, you want to minimize struggling and make yourself look as non-aggressive as possible. Don’t make direct eye contact with the dog and shield the child’s body as you turn to the side. Most dogs will turn away if they realize you are not a threat.
If the dog is already biting the child, defuse the situation with these tips:
- Don’t pull the child away. If the dog has already clamped down, pulling away will rip flesh.
- Try to pick up the dog by its back legs.
- Put something (a coat, t-shirt, etc.) over the dog’s head to confuse him.
- Grab a stick to hit the dog in sensitive areas, such as his ears and eyes.
- Bait the dog with a sweater sleeve. If the dog gets a hold of this item, they will let go of your child so you can back away.
What to Do After a Dog Attack
If your child is recovering from a dog attack, you may be dealing with medical bills and expensive physical and psychological therapy. You may have to miss time at work to take care for your child, and your heart may be breaking as you watch your child deal with debilitating pain and suffering after the attack.
We may be able to help you get compensation and justice for your child. In a recent case, we were able to secure a $450,000 settlement for a teen after a dog attack. To learn more about your rights after a dog attack and to set up a free consultation, contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC today.