Behavior

What Do I Do If My Dog Bites Someone?

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Last Updated: January 9, 2024 | 5 min read | 138 Comments

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A dog biting persons face

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?”

My dog hurting someone is the last thing I would ever imagine. Not only could someone get seriously injured, but my beloved pup could be taken away. As dog owners, it’s important that we know what to do should our dogs bite someone.

What To Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

My dog bit someone, but why? There may not be clear warning signs. But 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 to help prevent others from being attacked.

What Happens If Your Dog Bites Someone

What if my dog nipped someone, and you don’t know what to do? Follow these tips.

Stay Calm

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 decide whether or not they will want to hire a lawyer and sue you for damages. Being polite and pleasant is always the route because the victim may decide to be nice back and not involve a lawyer.

Seek Medical Attention

Get the victim medical help. 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 the polite and pleasant route, you should offer to pay for the victim’s medical bills. This was not their fault; 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 the victim your name, address, phone number, etc. On a related note, you should also get the victim’s information and any witnesses.

What To Do After Your Dog Bites Someone

A few days or weeks after the attack, contact 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.

Dog bite laws vary by location, but there are three potential scenarios.

  1. Civil Court – Dog owners in most states are responsible for medical expenses caused by bite injuries.
  2. Criminal Court – This is rare, but you could be accused of several crimes if the attack was severe enough or the dog has a rap sheet.
  3. Dog Court – Animal control may visit you and take action against you and/or your dog. If you are cited – you need to prepare a defense.

Continue to be careful about what you say, expressing your sympathy and compassion for the dog bite victim. These remarks should not 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 often be done at your home, so ask if this is an option in 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 they are not at risk for rabies.

There are several reasons why you may want to seek legal advice.

  1. The victim has asked you for money.
  2. The bite drew blood or was a significant bite.
  3. You think your dog could have an illness/disease or perhaps rabies.
  4. Your gut is telling you that the victim has intentions to press charges.
  5. The police contact you.
  6. You think you might be facing criminal consequences.

Contact Your Insurance Company

If you felt 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 dog bit occurs on your property or elsewhere. Some insurance companies even offer medical payment coverage, which you may be able to offer the victim.

Be Honest & Brief

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.

What Not To Discuss

Because this incident can lead to criminal charges, you should avoid discussing the following things:

  • Who owns the dog
  • What exactly happened, and where
  • Other things involved in the incident

We know this sounds ridiculous and that there are times when 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 any details you share are truthful.

Our Personal Experience With Our Dog Biting A Neighbor

We used to have a Dalmatian who was very territorial. One time when my neighbor was letting us borrow a table, he passed it to me over the fence to minimize how far it had to travel. However, when his arm reached across our side to the fence, my dog jumped up and nipped his forearm in an attempt to protect his territory. Luckily, our dog was current on all his shots, he only left a small scratch that healed quickly, and our neighbor was very understanding, but this could have been much worse.

This experience was a humbling reminder that we need to keep our territorial dog secured when people are coming into our yard, even if only there arms are spreading across the fence. One cannot be too cautious when it comes to the safety of your visitors.

Michelle S., Canine Journal Co-Founder and Lifetime Dog Owner

What To Expect If A Dog Bite Occurs (Video)

The video below from the Paw Report summarizes what will happen if your dog bites someone and provides tips to help prevent bite situations.

The Future For You And Your Dog

Your pet is now considered a dangerous dog. 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. 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).

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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