While dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend” there is no guaranteed that a dog will not bite. All dogs can bite regardless of breed. Each year, thousands of people are bitten by a dog they are acquainted with (their own, a neighbor, or a friends) in their home or in a familiar place. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States every year, and 900,000 of those bites become infected.
There are many reasons that dogs bite. This includes a dog reacting to a stressful situation, a dog that is threatened or scared, a dog protecting themselves, their puppies or their owner, or a dog that is sick. Other dogs may nip or bite during play. The most frequent victims of dog bites are children, the elderly, postal service carriers and delivery personnel. A person bitten by an animal may have a legal right to recover damages from the animal’s owner or responsible party.
Florida Statute 767.04 – Damage by Dogs; Dangerous Dog states that the dog owner is liable for damages to a person bitten by their dog. Unlike other states, Florida does not allow a one-bite rule, irrespective of whether their vicious propensities were previously known. The alleged victim could also be held accountable for any negligence for their role, which could reduce the amount (percentage) of the damages awarded.
A dog owner is responsible whenever a dog bites or causes harm in a public place or in a lawfully private place. A dog owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.”
In Florida, there is no statewide leash law, but a victim could also look to see if their county has a leash law, in order to pursue an ordinary negligence claim.
Injuries resulting from dog bites are often to the arm/hand, leg/foot, the neck/back and the face. While many of the injuries are minor some can be fatal. Injuries included punctures, lacerations, bruising, infections, nerve damage, amputations, fractures/dislocations and scarring. Some bites require surgery to repair and extensive therapy.
If you are bitten by a dog, clean the bite site and immediately seek medical attention. You can report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including their owner's name and the address where they live. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw them, whether you've seen them before and in which direction they went.
If your dog bites someone your dog should be confined immediately. If necessary, provide the victims with your dog’s rabies vaccination information and you may need to cooperate with animal control officers. The Humane Society recommends that dog owners have their dog spayed or neutered, socialize the dog with as many people and situations as you can and finally get your dog trained to reduce the risk of your dog biting someone.
There are also things one can do to prevent themselves from being bitten. If choosing a pet for your family, do your research and look for breeds with a good temperament. Stay away from dog you do not know or ask permission of the owner before approaching the dog. Never leave a child alone with a dog. Do not play with a dog that is eating, tending her puppies, sleeping or chewing on toys. If you do approach a dog, do so slowly giving the dog a chance to get to know you. Never go face to face with a dog you do not know. If a dog becomes aggressive, stay calm (no running or screaming), slowly move away from the dog, and avoid any eye contact.
Victims of dog bites face not only their physical injuries and treatment but also face emotional challenges. If you have been bitten or injured by a dangerous dog contact Tami Wolfe at Kalis, Kleiman & Wolfe online or call us at (954) 791-0477 for a FREE consultation.