My Dog Bit Someone! Now What?

All dogs can bite.

Though we, as responsible pet owners, strive to prevent dog bites, it can happen for various reasons. If the unthinkable happens and your dog bites someone, here’s what to do.

Stay Calm

Remove your dog from the situation immediately, and assist the person with cleaning the wound. Be calm, kind and understanding rather than defensive, even if you feel it was the person’s fault, and assess whether the injury requires medical assistance. If it does, offer to take the victim to get care, and offer to pay for required treatment. Remember, a dog bite opens you up to the risks of a lawsuit. Be kind, courteous, sympathetic and helpful up front.

Collect and Give Contact Info

Provide your dog’s rabies certificate immediately (or contact your vet’s office to fax or email it), and provide the bite victim with all your contact information. Collect contact information from any witnesses to the bite. If the victim chooses to pursue litigation, you’ll need all that information at your fingertips—and you’ll need to hire a lawyer.

Follow the Law

Depending on where you live, dog bite laws vary widely. You should contact your insurance agent to determine what your policy will cover. You may be required to contact animal control; some municipalities require a dog who has bitten to be quarantined for a set period of time. Remember, you may still be susceptible for a lawsuit, so furnishing information and being helpful will go a long way.

If the Victim Drops It

Many dog bite victims, especially if it’s a close friend, family member or a dog lover, and especially if the injury is superficial, may choose to drop the whole thing. In that case, do something nice for the victim—food is always good—to offer a sincere apology and a thank you.

If You Go To Court

Hire a lawyer. Read up on dog bite laws for your area. You may only have to go to “dog court” with your local animal control, but be ready for civil or criminal court if that’s common in your area. Be prepared to furnish the contact information for witnesses that you collected and your vet’s information. In the meantime, have your dog assessed by your vet and potentially by a trainer to show that information in court.

Prevent Future Incidents

Regardless of whether or not you go to court, you must prevent future bite incidents. Get your dog thoroughly checked at the vet; sometimes a dog bites because he or she is in pain and needs treatment. Hire a positive reinforcement trainer to work on your dog’s manners and obedience and to desensitize your dog to any known triggers. It’s up to you to protect your dog and to prevent all future bites.

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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