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What Should I Do If My Dog Bites Someone?

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DOG 'NIPPING AT YOUR HEELS' GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images
Question: What Should I Do If My Dog Bites Someone?
My dog bit someone! What should I do now? Will there be legal ramifications? Could my dog be euthanized or taken away from me?
Answer: If your dog bites someone, your first reaction might be shock or panic. However, it is important to take swift action if a dog bite occurs. Don't delay - if your dog bites someone, take the following steps:
  1. Try to remain calm.
  2. Confine your dog to a crate or another room.
  3. Help the bite victim wash the wound thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
  4. Be courteous and sympathetic to the bite victim. Avoid laying blame or getting defensive. Remember that what you say may be used against you later if legal or civil action is taken.
  5. Contact a medical professional for the bite victim. Depending on the severity of the bite, an ambulance may be needed.
  6. Exchange contact information with the victim. Provide your insurance information, if applicable.
  7. If there were witnesses, obtain their contact information.
  8. Contact your veterinarian and obtain your dog's medical records.
  9. Inform local authorities of the incident and comply with their orders.

Dog Bites and the Law

Dog bite laws can vary greatly depending on local jurisdiction. It is important that you research the laws in your area so you will know what to expect. The following conditions typically apply in dog bite cases:
  • You will need to show proof of your dog's rabies vaccination history.
  • A quarantine period may be required. This will most likely be longer if the rabies vaccine is not current.
  • Depending on the situation and your dog's history, it is possible for your dog to be designated a "dangerous dog." You may have to comply with specific laws regarding the handling of your dog.
  • Laws may require that your dog is euthanized if your dog is considered "dangerous," if the injury was very serious, or if a fatality occurred. In addition, you could be held legally responsible and face criminal charges.

Your Role After the Dog Bite

The dog bite victim may choose to press charges and/or file a civil suit against you. In these cases, you should immediately hire an attorney.

While you may or may not be legally ordered to cover the victim's medical expenses, it is a good idea to offer up front to pay. This shows the victim that you are accepting responsibility for your dog. It may even help you avoid a messy lawsuit. Above all, it is the ethical thing to do, even if you have an explanation for the dog bite. In reality, proving your dog was provoked or somehow justified will be difficult unless it can be proven that the victim was committing a crime. This may be an argument that is not worth having.

It is your responsibility to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future. Take measures to prevent the dog from biting again - contact a professional trainer and possibly a veterinary behaviorist.

In most cases, a dog bite can be easily prevented by taking the proper safety measures.

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