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How To Avoid Dog Bites in New York

Published August 10, 2015 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney
Dog bite

A dog bite can is a painful, traumatic experience, and can lead to serious health complications. Unfortunately, the majority of dog bites requiring treatment are to children ages 5 – 9, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control or CDC.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that more than 4.5 million people in the USA are bitten by dogs every year. That group reports that about 800,000 people – or about one in every five victims — get medical attention for dog bites each year, with about half of the victims being children.

Unfortunately, children are far more likely to be seriously injured by a dog, with 359,223 children aged 1 to 14 years bitten by dogs in a recent two-year period.

Dog bites can be very dangerous, and in some tragic cases the injuries are fatal. A dog bite injury can lead to serious infections and permanent scars, particularly for young children who are often attacked on the head, face, neck and upper body. If you or your child has been attacked by a dog, get medical attention immediately.

Any dog can bite, even the most trusted family pet, when the conditions are right. Parents should teach their children the rules about how to avoid a dog bite, how to approach a dog (including the family pet), and what to do if an off-leash dog is roaming the neighborhood.

Approaching a Controlled Dog

Children are attracted to dogs and see them as pets and friends. They can be quick to approach an animal that may respond with aggressive behavior. It is important to educate children not to approach a strange dog. In addition, the ASPCA offers recommendations on how to behave around dogs:

  • Do not approach, play with, or touch a dog who is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or mother dog that is caring for puppies.
  • Never approach a dog who is barking, growling, or that appears frightened. According to the Humane Society, you can identify a dangerous dog by its demeanor, such as a tense body, stiff tail, pulled back ears, furrowed brow, and intense stare, or an animal that is backing away from you. Stay away from dogs exhibiting this behavior.
  • Always ask permission from the owner before attempting to pet a dog. If the owner says the dog is safe, approach slowly and let the dog sniff your closed hand before gently petting the dog on the shoulder or chest. Do not pat a dog on the head.
  • Do not reach through a fence, a door, or over a barricade to pet a dog. Dogs are very protective of the home and yard, and could potentially respond with an attack.

With permission from The Family Dog.

When You Encounter a Dog Off-Leash

Occasionally a dog will escape an owner’s custody and roam a neighborhood, and a stray, abandoned dog may be encountered in any neighborhood. When an off-leash dog is observed, care must be taken at all times. Children who see a dog off leash should not approach the dog. Teach your children to return home or to a safe location such as store or school, and inform an adult immediately so animal control can be contacted to remove the animal. Dogs may carry rabies or other diseases, or could be untrained and aggressive, posing a danger to both children and adults.

If a loose dog comes near you, do not run or scream. Running from a dog can make the situation worse, and it is not possible to outrun a dog. Instead, avoid eye contact and stand motionless. Once the dog loses interest, slowly back away and get to a safe location.

If a dog attacks you, place any item you can find between the animal and your body, whether a jacket, shirt, or other item. If you fall or are knocked down, curl your body into a ball, and protect your head by putting your hands over your ears. Remain silent and do not roll around, as this can increase the dog’s impulse to attack.

If You Are Bitten by a Dog in New York

If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, immediately wash the wound with warm soap and water, if the injury is minor. If the dog has ripped or torn the skin or muscle, call 911 for emergency services. All dog bites should be assessed by a physician due to the danger of certain types of dangerous infections. Bites that have broken the skin must be treated. Report the bite to the animal control agency, along with a description of the animal. If you know the owner of the dog, write down his or her information so that the aggressive dog behavior is documented.

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