Dog Bite Injuries, Your Legal Rights, and the Law
Dogs bite more than 4.7 million people each year, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Untrained, unsocialized dogs that haven’t been neutered or spayed can be dangerous to people. Dog owners need to be aware of their responsibilities for training, socializing, and controlling their dogs. A failure to do so can increase the potential if their dog bites a person.
A study reported in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Ass’n (JAMVA) showed that over a 2-year period, 82% of all human dog bite-related fatalities, involved unrestrained dogs who were either on or off their owners’ property. Analyzing these statistics, it would be prudent to stay away from dogs that you are not familiar with if they are off a leash.
Despite concluding that Rottweiler and pit bull-type dogs accounted for a 67% of all dog bite-related fatalities between 1997 and 1998, the JAMVA study concluded that “Breed-specific legislation does not address the fact that a dog of any breed can become dangerous when bred or trained to be aggressive.”
Of all dog bite victims, young children between 5 and 9 years-old sustain the highest rate of injury. It’s a troubling statistic that dog owners should take responsible steps to do something about.
Dog Bite Safety Tips
Here are some basic dog bite safety tips to teach and review with your children:
Different Kinds of Liability
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not run from a dog and scream.
- Remain motionless (e.g., "be still like a tree") when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., "be still like a log").
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
That’s important because some states have strict dog bite liability laws, especially if your dog bites someone in a public place, or on your private property while carrying out a legally imposed duty (legalese for saying you could be liable if your dog bites the mail carrier or meter reader). New Jersey, Arizona, Georgia, and California
New York does not have a strict liability statute for dog bites, like other states, but currently remains a `one bite´ state. If a litigant can prove that a dog has had a history of biting, or a propensity for being vicious, and that an new or should have known about that, the owner could be held strictly liable for a victim´s injuries caused by the bite.
Section 121 of the state´s Agriculture and Markets Law spells out New York´s dangerous dog law. But in New York, you cannot judge a dog by the color of its coat, but by the content of its character. An important New York appeals court ruling in 1998 highlighted this fact in a personal injury case, ruling in favor of the defendants.
Other states like Florida have modified strict dog bite liability laws that take into account any role that the victim may have played in being bitten, and for dog owners.