As the weather begins to warm up in New Jersey, more and more people are outside with their dogs. While dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend,” dogs can also be dangerous, and even the friendliest of dogs may bite when provoked. Here, we discuss important facts about dog bites, tips for preventing dog bites and what to do if a dog bites you in New Jersey.
The reality is that most dog bites are completely preventable. However, preventing dog bites requires effort from both sides of the leash – the person who owns the dog and the person who is interacting with the pet.
What Are the Facts About Dog Bites?
While anyone can be a victim of a dog bite, the age group that is most at risk of being bitten by a dog is children ages 14 and younger. The second most at-risk group for dog bites is senior citizens, or those ages 65 and older.
KidsHealth.org reports that out of 4.7 million dog bites that occur in the United States each year, more than half of the victims are children in this age group.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), about one in five people who are bitten by a dog require medical attention. Every year, nearly 800,000 people receive emergency room treatment for dog bites, and more than half of these people are children.
The majority of dog bites involving children occur while the children are doing everyday activities, and while interacting with familiar dogs, the AVMA states.
How Can Dog Owners Prevent Dog Bites?
As a dog owner, you can do certain things to reduce the risk of your furry friend biting or attacking another person or animal. The steps you can take include:
- Adopt a dog with a known background. Little is known about the background or temperament of many dogs that people adopt from shelters. If you are considering adopting a dog, choose one from an animal shelter where staff or volunteers can provide you with important information about the dog’s history and behavior.
- Train your dog. Training your dog is one of the best ways that you can reduce the risk of your dog attacking. The earlier that you start dog training, the better. Check out this Directory of Dog Training in New Jersey for some ideas on finding a dog trainer nearest to you.
- Socialize your dog. Socializing your dog from a young age is another important thing you can do to reduce the risk of dog bites. Dogs that can comfortably interact with people, including children, and other dogs will be less likely to feel threatened and attack.
- Take action if your dog demonstrates aggression. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reminds dog owners that they should not wait to take action if their dog shows any signs of aggressive behavior. Waiting too long to seek help for your dog – typically from a dog trainer – could be risky. Do not wait for a serious accident to occur.
- Play it safe. Be aware of your dog’s behaviors, dislikes and fears. If you know your dog does not behave well around children, keep your dog on a leash around kids and ask parents to instruct their kids to refrain from petting your dog. By avoiding a potentially stressful situation for your dog, you can reduce the chances of your dog biting someone.
How Can You Prevent an Attack When Interacting with a Dog?
Dog lover or not, you can do any number of things to reduce your risk of being bitten by a dog that is not yours. These steps include:
- Pay attention to dogs’ behaviors. Dogs will use body language to tell you when they are stressed, threatened or on the verge of attacking. For instance, a happy dog will wag its tail, while an upset dog will raise the hair on its back, try to make itself look bigger, shrink to the ground, tuck its tail between its legs, show its teeth and/or growl or bark. If you notice a dog doing any of these behaviors, you should back away slowly and give the dog its space.
- Do not approach a dog you do not know. Even if a dog looks friendly, do not approach a dog that you do not know and attempt to pet it unless the owner of the dog has expressly given you permission to do so. Always let a dog approach and sniff you before you try to pet it.
- Do not disturb a dog while the dog is eating, sleeping or playing with a toy. If a dog is eating, sleeping, chewing a bone or preoccupied with a toy, let the dog be. A dog may be annoyed that you are disturbing it or become territorial over its bone, food or toy. This can upset a dog and result in the animal defending itself or its property.
- Keep a safe distance from a dog’s home. Even the friendliest of dogs can be extremely territorial. Keep a safe distance from properties that have dogs on them, particularly if the dog is unleashed in the yard or kept outside. A dog may attack because it feels as though it needs to defend its home or family within the home.
- Talk to your children about dog safety. Remind children of the tips above, and encourage children to never approach a dog without adult supervision.
What Should You Do If a Dog Attacks?
Knowing how to avoid a dog bite is important. However, dog bite prevention techniques do not always work. In some cases, a dog may attack unexpectedly and without reason despite steps you may have taken to avoid the attack.
If you suffer a dog bite, The Humane Society recommends immediately washing the wound thoroughly, contacting your physician and reporting the dog bite to the appropriate animal control agency.
If your injuries are serious, you should also contact a New Jersey dog bite attorney. A lawyer can help you to pursue compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. At Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., we are ready to meet with you today at no cost. Contact us now to schedule your initial consultation.