John Maher sits down with Rob Mazow and Robert Hartigan of the law firm of Mazow McCullough. They talk about what to do if a stray dog bites you. They cover the importance of getting medical attention and contacting animal control. Then, they look at compensation for victims of injuries from stray dogs.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Rob Mazow and Robert Hartigan of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about stray dogs and dog bites. Rob and Robert, welcome.
Rob Mazow: Thank you, John.
Robert Hartigan: Hi John.
Are There Stray Dogs in Massachusetts?
John: Rob, are stray dogs still found in Massachusetts?
Rob: You don’t hear about it so much anymore because leash laws are so specific and they’re in every town and city in the commonwealth. You’ll more likely see a dog that’s broken away from its leash or from its yard, but you’re less likely to see some stray dog.
We see rabbits and cats around all the time, but you’re less likely on the stray dogs. That’s not to say they’re not out there and not to be careful, but I think if you see a dog without a leash or without a collar, it’s likely broken away from its domain.
What to Do If a Stray Dog Bites You
John: Right, right. Yeah. Certainly I used to see a lot of dogs when I was younger just kind of roaming around the streets before we had those leash laws. But even then, they were probably pets, people’s dogs but they just didn’t have them tied down. But with the leash laws these days, you really don’t see it too often. But if you are bitten by a stray dog or a dog that you might think is a stray dog, what should you do?
1. Get Medical Attention
Rob: Well, first of all, you’re going to have to get medical attention. It’s very scary to think about being bitten by a dog that might be stray, which you would have no idea whether it’s got its proper shots and vaccinations and whether it’s got its rabies shots. What’s going to happen, unfortunately, is you’re going to start your rabies shots.
You’re just going to have to. You’re going to go to the hospital. They’re going to ask you about what happened. You’re going to tell him you got bit by a dog. You have no idea whose dog it is, whether it has any of its shots. And they’re going to start the rabies process and likelihood in that situation you’re going to go through the whole process because they’re never going to find that dog and they’re never going to be able to tell whether that dog has rabies or not. But the very first thing you should do is go to the hospital.
2. Report the Dog to Animal Control
Rob: If on the way to the hospital, you want to take the two minutes to call 911, do it but I would get myself right to the hospital. Now you can call 911 at some point and explain what happened and maybe the police department, the local police department knows this dog or can find this dog, but in all likelihood, that’s not going to happen.
John: Right. Towns have animal control officers that you can call and try to get them to track that dog down so that maybe I could avoid that rabies shot if they find the dog and can test it? Or is that just not going to happen?
Rob: By the time they do that, you should have gotten a rabies shot anyway so I don’t think they will be able to get the stray dog, find it in a quick amount of time.
John: Or be able to confirm that it was actually that dog that bit you for sure. And that kind of thing.
Rob: Yeah. It’s not to say it’s not possible. If you were in a small town, the animal control officer might be able to assist you in locating that dog, might know who that dog is. Most towns do either have or share an animal control officer with other towns so it’s worth a shot and certainly better than going through the entire rabies shot experience. It would be worth the effort to at least contact the animal control officer to see if they can provide any guidance here.
3. Get a Rabies Shot ASAP
John: Do you know how much time you have before you need to start those rabies shots?
Rob: I wouldn’t waste any time. I’d go and begin it right away.
John: Yeah, it’s so dangerous. There’s no point in taking any chances.
Rob: Right, definitely.
Compensation for Injuries From Stray Dogs
John: What options do you have in terms of maybe getting compensated for your injuries if you’re bitten by a stray dog or again, a dog that you don’t know and you can’t locate?
Rob: The truth is that you’re out of luck probably. It’s a sad situation. This is why we’ve written a book recently on this about… just if you don’t know a dog, if you’re not familiar with the dog, stay away from it because you don’t know, certainly with a stray dog, you’re not going to know what kind of demeanor they have.
And it’s better just stay far away from that dog. The only possible way that a person would be able to get compensation if they get injured by a dog, is if that dog is owned by somebody or is kept or is being handled by somebody at the time. But when you talk about strays, that’s not going to be the case. Unfortunately the likelihood of compensation is not going to happen.
Dog Owner’s Insurance Vs Your Medical Insurance
Robert: And even if you do find out who the dog owner is, the next question is going to be, does that person have insurance? There’s a lot of things that need to fall into place before any sort of compensation or the idea of compensation can become a reality.
John: In the absence of knowing the dog owner and finding out if they have insurance, you’re just left to fall back on your own medical insurance in terms of paying your medical bills.
Rob: Exactly. Exactly. Now again, when you say stray, I’m thinking it’s just some wild dog. If it’s a dog that has escaped somehow from its domain and you’re able to find out where that dog came from and you can find the owner or you can find the keeper, then you’ll be able to make a claim.
But if somebody comes to us and they say, “I got bit by a dog.” And we say, “Where? Who? What?” And they don’t know, there’s not going to be able to be any compensation in there, unfortunately.
Contact Mazow McCullough for Help
John: All right. No, that’s really great information, Rob and Robert. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Rob: Thanks, John.
Robert: Thank you.
John: And for more information, you can visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call (855) 693-9084.