The summer months are typically associated with vacations, outdoor activities, and a much-needed break from school. Unfortunately, research shows that dog bites also occur more often in the summer, and that young children are at the highest risk.
Many factors, ranging from hot weather to stress at home, can influence a dog’s behavior and create a dangerous situation. With more than 36% of U.S. households owning at least one dog, the risk is ever-present.
Children face a higher likelihood of suffering a dog bite in places where dogs and children are present together including parks, neighborhoods, and other public areas. The CDC notes that children are more likely to be bitten than adults, and that their injuries are often more severe. Understanding the common causes of dog bites and how to spot aggressive behavior is important for safely making the most out of your summer.
Common causes of dog bites
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, common causes of dog bites include:
- Defense of the dog’s territory
- Fear, excitement, or feeling threatened
- Protecting a loved one like an owner
- Rough play (e.g. tug-of-war)
With more people outdoors and more children playing near dogs, it’s important to know these triggers. Otherwise, you and your loved ones might miss the signs of a stressed or anxious dog, and the consequences could be devastating.
Unfortunately, dog attacks often result in severe injuries. In an instant, a victim could suffer skin lacerations, muscle tears, nerve damage, sprains from failing, or other physical harm. Dog bites can also lead to serious infections, like rabies, tetanus and MRSA, due to the massive amounts of bacteria in dogs’ mouths. Getting prompt medical treatment is critical for treating injuries and infections.
How to stay safe from summertime dog bites
There are ways to enjoy the summer and minimize the risk that you or your child suffers a dog bite. Avoiding contact with dogs you don’t know may be enough to protect you, but sometimes even the dogs you have a relationship with can behave unexpectedly.
Observe the dog’s demeanor.
You can sometimes observe clues as to a dog’s inclination to bite, and the dog’s body language is one of the best ways to do so. You should be cautious if you see signs like a stiff posture, aggressive chasing or barking, illness, irritability, direct staring, or grimacing.
Obtain permission to approach or pet a dog.
It is not a good idea to approach a dog without its owner. The dog may be less likely to trust you when it’s alone, and you likely won’t know if it is ill, hungry, or aggressive.
Do not scare a dog.
If you have permission to approach a dog, move slowly and carefully to help the dog feel safe. Sudden movements, rough petting, or large embraces could cause excessive excitement or fear.
Have your dog socialized.
Dog bites can result when an owner is trying to protect a pet from another dog. Socializing your dog may help prevent a situation where your dog upsets another dog and sparks aggression.
What to do if you have suffered a dog bite
If you or a loved one have suffered a dog bite, it is important to get prompt medical attention. Washing the wound with soap and water as quickly as possible can help minimize the chance of inflection.
Talking with the owner may help you gain useful information such as what vaccinations or illnesses the dogs may have, and whether the owner has insurance.
Who Is liable if you’ve been bitten?
If a dog has bitten you, your child, or someone close to you, you may not be familiar with your rights and legal options.
While some people are bitten by unfamiliar dogs, the unfortunate reality is that most victims are attacked by the pets of family members, friends, and neighbors. This familiarity with the owner often makes people wary of pursuing legal action. However, most people’s homeowners’ insurance policies will cover dog bites. This means that a victim could be compensated for his or her injuries, and the pet owner will not have to bear the brunt of the financial burden.
The laws regarding liability for dog bites vary from state to state, so make sure to contact an experienced attorney in your area. Some states have strict liability laws in place for dog bites, and others have “one bite” rules. These rules mean that the owner of a dog that has never displayed violent tendencies in the past may not be liable the first time the dog bites someone. States without strict liability laws in place make it more difficult for victims to pursue dog bite claims.
If you’ve been bitten, it is a good idea to contact a lawyer who understands the specific dog bite laws in your area to discuss your rights.