By Jason M. Lichtenstein, Esq.
Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year? Dog bites can be very serious and leave behind scars or other permanent injuries.
As a Baby Boomer, you may live in a neighborhood where many residents have dogs. Or maybe you have children or grandchildren, and you want to protect them from dog bites and dog attacks.
While you may not have had an encounter with an aggressive dog, even Boomers can become dog bite victims. Being educated about aggressive dogs and knowing how to react to them could save you a trip to the ER, allowing you and your family to enjoy your summer.
Follow these top 5 tips to prevent dog bites and protect your family:
1. Know Your State’s Dog Bite & Leash Laws
Each state has different laws that govern the responsibilities of dog owners. As a dog owner, you must maintain “reasonable control” over your dog at all times – meaning it must be kept on a leash or confined within a fence on your property. Those who fail to follow these laws may be held responsible for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses if their dog injures another person. The owner may also face fines.
2. Follow Dog Bite Safety Tips
- Never leave a child alone with a dog.
- Never bend down or put your face near a dog’s face. As a Boomer, your reaction time may not be as quick as it used to be, and many dog bites can leave behind scars.
- Respect a dog’s space. Don’t place your hands on a dog’s fence, or walk too closely to the property – especially if the dog is showing signs of aggression.
- Ask a dog’s owner for permission before petting a dog. Allow the dog to sniff you before petting it.
- Be extra careful around a mother with her puppies – she may be protective.
- Maintain control of your own dog – especially when taking your dog for a walk or when you encounter another dog. Some dogs are aggressive to other dogs, and you could end up bitten if you’re trying to split up a dog fight.
3. Recognize the Symptoms of Aggressive Dogs
Most dogs show signs of aggression before they attack. A dog that is getting angry or upset may pull back or wrinkle its nose, bare its teeth, and growl or snarl. The hair on its back may stick up, and its ears may lie back against its head or be pushed forward.
If a dog isn’t on a leash and approaches you, don’t run away, yell, or make sudden movements. Stand still, with your arms crossed over your chest, and don’t make eye contact with the dog. Toss an object away as a distraction, and then turn and walk away confidently.
4. Know What to Do After a Dog Bite
If the worst does happen and you’re bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately. As a Boomer, some dog bite injuries may be very serious, and you may need a lot of time to recover.
Be sure to report the attack to the State Dog Warden of Allegheny County by calling 412-366-1989. You also can contact the regional office at 724-443-1585.
5. Understand Your Legal Rights
If you’re bitten by a dog, the dog owner may be held liable for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any other losses, such as missed work time.
To protect your legal rights, preserve as much evidence as you can from the attack. Take photos of your torn or shredded clothes, injuries, where the attack occurred, etc.
Do Your Part to Prevent Dog Bites
As a Boomer, you already have plenty to think about – retirement, your health, and maybe even spending time with your grandkids. You shouldn’t have to worry about dog bite injuries. Knowing your state’s dog bite laws and leash laws, and following these safety tips will help you avoid a dog attack.
Attorney Jason M. Lichtenstein is a partner at the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates. He has over 18 years of experience representing victims of dog bites. For more information on dog bites and animal attacks, visit EdgarSnyder.com.