Dog bite prevention during the pandemic, and beyond

April 15, 2020 | 10:09 am


With more people taking walks around their neighborhoods and exercising outdoors to take a break from stay-at-home life during the conoravirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be aware of potential dangers while outside.

And that includes dangerous dogs or other animals roaming our streets.

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, aimed to help educate the public and reduce the 4.5 million dog bites per year, most of them against children and a vast majority preventable. More than 800,000 people each year receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Any dog can bite: big or small, young or old,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Even the sweetest pet can bite under certain circumstances. Let’s make sure we all do our part to respect pets, and they will respect us.”

 

HOW TO PREVENT DOG BITES

Most dog bites are preventable, and there are many things we can do at home and within our neighborhoods to help prevent them. But first, it’s important to know that dogs bite for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To defend itself or its territory.
  • Because they are scared or have been startled.
  • Because they feel threatened. T
  • To protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, food, or a toy.
  • Because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone.
  • During play. Avoid wrestling or playing tug-of-war with your dog. These types of activities can make your dog overly excited, which may lead to a nip or a bite.

So, what can we do to prevent dog bites?

First, socializing your pet helps your dog feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.

Second, educate yourself and your children about how to approach a dog.

Third, it’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner
  • If the dog is with its owner, but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence—​don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
  • If a dog is sleeping or eating
  • If a dog is sick or injured
  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
  • If a dog is playing with a toy
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Lastly, reading a dog’s body language also can be helpful. Just like people, dogs rely on body gestures, postures and vocalizations to express themselves and communicate. Dogs can give us helpful clues as to whether a dog is feeling stressed, frightened, or threatened.

Note: This year’s pandemic has brought on a new element. The U.S. Postal Service reported that with more children at home during school closures, incidents of dog attacks on postal carriers have a tendency to increase. When kids rush out the door to see a mail, a household dog often follows behind, leaving the carrier vulnerable to a dog attack. Pet owners, the service reported, are asked to wait for the carrier to leave before opening the door to get their mail or package. Dogs can slip between an owner’s legs while the door is open and attacking the carrier. The service recommends restraining dogs as mail carriers make personal deliveries.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE BITTEN

If you are bitten by a dog, here is a checklist of things you should do:

  • If the dog’s owner is present, request proof of rabies vaccination, and get the owner’s name and contact information.
  • Clean the bite wound with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Consult your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if it’s after office hours.
  • Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.

And if your dog happens to bite someone, remember that you are responsible to help the person who has been bitten and to remove your dog from the situation.

  • Restrain your dog immediately.
  • Separate your dog from the scene of the bite.
  • Try to confine your dog in a safe place.
  • Check on the bite victim’s condition.
  • Make sure that the wounds are washed with soap and water.
  • Encourage the bite victim to seek professional medical advice to check on the seriousness of the wound and the risk of rabies or other infections.
  • Call 9-1-1 if a response by paramedics is needed.
  • Provide important information.
  • Give the bite victim – or others who are with the person at the time of the incident – your name, address and phone number, as well as information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination.
  • Obey local rules and laws regarding reporting of dog bites.
  • Talk to your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar incidents in the future.

 

DOG BITE CASES

The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have decades of experience handling dog bite cases on behalf of victims.

Most recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a claim on behalf of the family of a second-grade student who was bitten on the face by a dog while in her classroom. Leilani, 8, suffered severe lacerations and tearing to her face when she was attacked by one of two large dogs visiting her classroom on May 9 at Wayside Elementary School (Bakersfield City School District) in south Bakersfield. The dogs belonged to a volunteer reader from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office.

The family alleges in the claim that Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office negligently allowed the volunteer reader to bring into the classroom two dogs, and failed to supervise the dogs in a safe manner. As a result, Leilani suffered severe injuries. The family further alleges that the dog owner is strictly liable pursuant to California Civil Code section 3342 (Dog Bite Statute).

This case is a warning to school officials and parents toward allowing animals near young students on school campuses.

In another case, Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what was the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California at the time, according to VerdictSearch, a verdict and settlement database.

In this case, a 21-year-old was attacked by a K-9 dog accompanying a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy while outside of a restaurant in north Bakersfield. Responding to a domestic dispute, the deputy exited his patrol vehicle and began walking toward Casey. At that time, the K-9 exited the patrol car, ran toward Casey and began biting her for 60 to 90 seconds. Casey suffered several major bite wounds to her leg.

Investigation found that the K-9 escaped from its holding kennel in the back of the patrol car due to a mechanical defect inside of the car. The deputy agreed that the K-9 should not have been let out of the patrol car. In addition, the K-9 failed to respond to commands from the deputy to cease attacking.

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If you or someone you know is bitten or attacked by a dog, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.