So many questions come to mind when you think about what would happen if your dog bit someone. What do I do to stop my dog? Is everyone okay? Do I need to call for help? Do I report the incident to someone? Could I get sued?
Your dog biting someone could possibly be one of the worst things you could imagine. Not only could someone get seriously injured but your beloved pup could be taken away from you. It’s important that you know what to do should your dog bite someone.
It’s quite possible that your dog was protecting you. Dogs attack because they feel their property or loved ones are threatened so their owner is assaulted, they are likely to go into defense mode.
Perhaps you were being mugged or attacked and your dog was trying to help you which resulted in biting as a form of saving you from harm. In this case, it’s important that you leave the area immediately. You don’t want yourself or your dog to be harmed and hopefully, the criminal involved is scared off.
You’ll also want to contact the police and file a report. Make sure you are honest about the situation and try to be as descriptive as possible so you can help prevent others from being attacked by this criminal.
The first thing to remember is to remain calm. It’s important that you don’t begin to argue because it may cause your dog to attack the victim again. Not only is this for the well-being of both the victim and your dog but also because the victim has to make the decision as to whether or not they will want to hire a lawyer and sue you for damages. Being polite and nice is always the route to go because the victim may decide to be nice back and not involve a lawyer.
Seek Medical Help
Get the victim medical attention. Be mindful and take them to the hospital immediately. It’s important that they get the bite mark checked and tended to. If you’re going along with the polite and nice route, you should offer to pay for the victim’s medical bills. This was not their fault and remember, you do not want to involve lawyers.
Swap Contact Information
Give your contact information to the victim. In some jurisdictions, this is required. So be sure to give your name, address, phone number, etc. to the victim. Going along with this, you should also get the victim’s information as well as any witnesses.
A few days or weeks after the attack reach out to the victim and check-in to see how they are doing. Show that you genuinely care about their recovery. However, be careful of what you say because it could come back to bite you in the rear (pun intended)! Remember that there is still a chance that you and your dog will face criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. There are actually three places where you might end up.
- Civil Court – Dog owners are responsible for injuries from bites in most states.
- Criminal Court – This is rare, but if the attack was serious enough or if the dog has a rap sheet you could be accused of a number of crimes.
- Dog Court – Animal control may pay you a visit and take action against you and/or your dog. If you are cited – you need to prepare a defense.
Now, back to being careful about what you say, express your sympathy and show compassion for the victim. These types of remarks won’t be used against you in court because they are acts of kindness. If the court is not the route for you (and hopefully it isn’t) there is still a chance that your dog may be quarantined. The quarantine can be done at your own home, so ask if this is an option for your situation.
Locate Your Dog’s Medical Records
Make a copy of your dog’s medical records including rabies shots and give it to the victim. This will put their mind at ease knowing that they are not at risk for rabies.
Seek Legal Advice
There are many reasons why you may want to seek legal advice.
- The victim has asked you for money
- The bite drew blood or was a significant bite
- You think your dog could have an illness/disease or perhaps rabies
- Your gut is telling you that the victim has intentions to press charges
- The police contact you
- You think you might be facing criminal consequences
Contact Your Insurance Company
If you felt that it was necessary to seek legal advice you may want to contact your insurance company. Check with your insurance company to see if they cover dog attacks (aka dog liability insurance).
If you have homeowners or renters insurance there is a fair chance that you have coverage but it depends on the state and, commonly, whether the bite happened on your property or elsewhere. Some insurance companies even offer medical payment coverage which you can offer the victim.
Don’t Lie, Be Honest!
We know you’ll want to protect yourself and your dog, but lying is never a good solution. Many dog owners give false information or make untruthful statements about the dog’s history of biting, which can end up hurting you and your dog. Because this incident can lead to criminal charges you should avoid discussing the following things.
- Who owns the dog
- What happened
- Where it happened
- Other things involving the incident
We know this sounds ridiculous and that there are times where you’ll need to discuss the incident. For example, when you take the victim to the hospital. But when discussing it, try not to go into too much detail and blab on about it. Try to be brief but also make sure it’s the truth.
The video below from the Paw Report has a good summary of what will happen if your dog bites someone and also provides tips on how to prevent bite situations.
Your dog is now considered dangerous. You may know the loving, sweet side of your dog and might have an explanation as to why your dog bit that person, but the sad truth is that those things don’t matter in this situation. The fact is, your dog attacked someone, and because of that, it’s considered dangerous by the local government authorities. There are now precautions that you must take.
Because your dog has a rap sheet, you both could face serious charges in one of the three courts should there be a second incident. Unfortunately, you must look at your dog differently now. You must protect your family, friends, and strangers from your dog.
Consider taking your dog to an animal behaviorist certified by the Animal Behavior Society to help deter aggressive behavior in the future. You may also find helpful tips in our aggressive dog article or try online dog training to help with minor behavioral issues (an in-person, local trainer is more likely to help in a serious situation).
Does your dog have a history of biting?