As a dog owner myself, I love the companionship and protection a well trained canine can provide a family. As a lawyer, I understand the responsibility and liability I have in training my dog, keeping him leashed or enclosed, and ensuring that my neighbors, children especially, are safe from an odd moment when my dog may become agitated and lash out aggressively.
According to the American Humane Association, it is estimated that
- 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. every year
- Approximately 800,000 dog bites will require medical care
- Approximately two-thirds of dog bites occurred on or near the victim's property, and most victims knew the dog
- 50% of dog attacks involved children under the age of 12
- 82% of dog bite victims that were treated in the emergency room were children under the age of 15
- 65% of dog bites among children injure the child's head or neck
Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites can inflict a wide range of injuries, both physical and emotional. Most often, dog bites in adults will cause abrasions, lacertions and punctures. More severe dog bites may result in tissue loss, facial fractures, crushed or fractured bones, nerve damage, scars and infections. Children and elderly are more susceptible to severe injuries, especially when the dog bites a child's head or neck.
Dog bite infections include rabies, cellulitis, C canimorsus, tetanus and sepsis.
Emotional injuries can also be prevalent after a dog bite, especially among children who witnessed or suffered from a dog attack. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not uncommon after a dog bite, and can occur immediately after the dog attack, or it may manifest a while later. Although dog bite induced PTSD can occur in dog bite victims of any age, it is believed that the younger the victim, especially young children, the more prone the dog bite victim will be to developing PTSD after a dog attack.
Causes of Dog Bites
The Humane Society lists four different types of aggression that may cause a dog to attack. They include:
- Fear motivated aggression - This occurs when the dog reacts defensively, believing he is in danger. Although the dog may not actually be in danger, if he perceives a person's action as threatening (or that of another animal), he may lash out to protect himself.
- Protective, territorial and possessive aggression - These are in the same category because they are similar reactions based out of the desire to defend the dog's resources. Typically, this defense mechanism is to protect property. But again, the dog reacts out of his perception. If the dog has been allowed to urinate outside of his owner's property boundaries, he may preceive his territory to be the entire neighborhood.
- Redirected aggression - Dogs may react aggressively to something or someone they are not able to attack. When this happens, the dog may redirect his aggression toward another animal or person nearby.
- Predation - The Humane Society lists this form of aggression as motivated by the intent to obtain food. However, it should be pointed out that dogs originated as predators and still retain those basic instincts. Although dogs can be tamed, they can also be trained and socialized to inflict harm. Many dog breeding programs train dogs to become predators, either for protection purposes or for illegal money schemes. If a dog has been bred as a predator, and then finds his way into a loving home that manages to retrain the dog, the dog may still revert to its predatory instincts given the right circumstances.
Time Limits for Filing Dog Bite Lawsuits
Every state has its own statute of limitations. These limits vary widely from one state to another, and may also be affected by other circumstances. If you believe you may have a situation that warrants a dog bite lawsuit, it is important to contact an experienced dog bite lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact a Sacramento Dog Bite Attorney
Eric Ratinoff represents children and adults who have been injured by dog attacks. His team has recovered millions of dollars in damages for injured children and their families who have been the victims of dog bites and other animal attacks.