Lots of young children are crazy about animals and see nothing wrong with throwing their arms around the furry neck of a dog they don’t know. Clearly, there’s a problem with this that extends beyond the embarrassment of pulling your child away from a stranger’s dog. Because you and your child don’t know anything about the dog, you can’t know whether the child’s behavior is going to provoke the dog to bite.
Every year, there are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in the US, and half of those bites involve children under the age of 12. Dog attacks involving children often result in more serious injuries than attacks involving adults, and 82% of all dog bite cases treated in the emergency room involve children under the age of 15.
Young children are at the highest risk, with those between the ages of 5 and 9 suffering the highest rate of dog bite-related injuries. Younger children may not be able to recognize when a dog they’ve approached is getting agitated, and many children suffer disfiguring injuries to their faces because they are close to the level of the dog’s teeth. In many of these cases, the child may require costly facial reconstruction surgery and may spend the rest of their lives fearing dogs.
Tips to Protect Children from Dog Bites
The best way to deal with the problem of dogs biting children is to take all possible precautions to prevent bites from happening in the first place. Here are a few basic tips to follow.
Educate your children. According to the American Humane Society, the best way to prevent dog bites is to educate your kids about the danger of approaching strange dogs or even agitating dogs they know. Children of all ages need to know how to appropriately play with dogs and how to recognize when the dog may be getting upset. The AHS has developed a curriculum specifically aimed at educating kids between the ages of 4 and 7.
Supervise children when they’re playing with a dog. Even if you know the dog and believe that he or she wouldn’t hurt a fly, you still need to supervise your children while they’re playing with their four-legged friend. You never know when something your child does might provoke or threaten a dog.
Report any dogs that are running loose or behaving strangely. If a dog is running loose in your neighborhood or is behaving in an aggressive manner, call Animal Control. You and your child should not approach the dog to check their tags if he or she appears to be agitated.
What Should You Do If a Dog Bite Is the Owner’s Fault?
Of course, even if you do everything in your power to prevent a dog bite, there are still unfortunate situations when a dog bite might occur. A dog may get loose and run into an area where children are playing, or a family friend might assure you that their dog is completely kid-friendly only to later find out that they were wrong.
When a dog bite is caused by the negligence of an owner rather than the negligence of the person bitten, the owner can be held liable. In addition to paying a fine and compensation for any injuries, the owner must keep their dog in a secure area on their property and post easily visible “Dangerous Dog” signs.If a dog that has been deemed dangerous ever attacks a person or domestic animal without provocation again, their owner will face a first degree misdemeanor and will have their dog confiscated by animal control authority.
Obviously nobody wants to reach a point where their child is bitten, a dog owner faces a misdemeanor, and a dog and their owner have to be separated. To avoid this type of situation, parents and dog owners need to do everything in their power to prevent dog attacks from happening in the first place.
About the Author:
Steven E. Slootsky is a 1985 graduate of Nova Law School, which means he’s been a practicing Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer for more than 2 decades. He founded the Law Offices of Slootsky, Perez & Braxton in 1991. The Fort Lauderdale-based accident attorney is a member of the Florida Bar, as well as the Federal Bar for the Southern District for the U.S. District Court. During his career as a personal injury lawyer/auto accident compensation attorney, Steven has served as the co-chair of the Workers' Compensation section for Broward County, Florida. He is also a Bronze member of the Florida Workers Advocates, a former member of the board, and serves as an “Eagle” member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.