Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones: Tips for Avoiding Dog Attacks
On average, there are more than 5,000 instances of animal bites in Maricopa County each year, with many of these being directly attributed to dog bites. And across the United States, about 1,000 people each day need to seek emergency medical care as a result of a dog bite.
TRAGICALLY, THE MAJORITY OF THE VICTIMS OF DOG ATTACKS ARE CHILDREN, AGES 11 AND UNDER. MANY OF THOSE ARE AGES 4 AND UNDER.
No matter where you live, there's always a chance that you could find yourself in such a dangerous situation. Whether you're approached by a stray dog while taking your trash out or chased down by an aggressive dog while out for your nightly walk, it's imperative that you know what to do and what not to do in order to protect yourself and your family.
Be Aware of the Warning Signs
Often times, dog bites occur because people don't understand the warning signs of a dog that's feeling stressed out or aggressive. This is especially common among children who may simply not know any better. Generally, you should never approach a dog that you don't know. However, if you do come across a dog in your neighborhood, be especially on alert and exercise caution if the dog displays any of these common warning signs:
- raised fur along its neck or back
- a wrinkled nose, possibly accompanied by growling
- a tense stance with a perked-up tail
Often times, these are the signs a dog will display when it's feeling threatened, and it could attack if further agitated. Your best bet in such a situation is to slowly back away from the dog and retreat to somewhere safe. Never try to calm a dog down by petting it, especially if you don't know its temperament.
Respect a Dog's Personal Space
While walking through your neighborhood, you probably see dogs running about in your neighbors' yards all the time. Sometimes, you might even feel tempted to walk over to a neighbor's fence and say "hi" to one of the dogs in the yard. The dog may appear friendly enough, so what's the harm?
Unfortunately, even dogs that are normally very friendly can become extremely territorial and aggressive when you invade their personal space. And since most dogs view their backyards as their own space, they're often willing to bite or attack a perceived "intruder" in order to protect it. As such, it's better to be safe than sorry and stay away. You might be surprised at how quickly a dog can turn from innocent to very aggressive, let alone how quickly even a small dog can hop a fence and try to attack you.
Don't Disturb a Sleeping or Eating Dog
Have you ever heard the phrase, "it's best to let sleeping dogs lie"? Well, this isn't just some random phrase; it's actually quite accurate. Dogs generally don't like to be disturbed while they're sleeping or eating—especially by people they don't know. Therefore, if you happen to come across a dog that appears to be a stray and is sleeping or eating, it's best to leave the dog alone. Many dogs will become territorial over food, so coming near it while it's trying to eat will probably not end well for you. Even if you're the one who offered the dog the treat, you'll want to leave it alone while it's enjoying it.
Furthermore, waking a dog while it's sleeping (even if your intentions are good) can be a recipe for disaster because it's likely to leave the dog surprised and scared. When a dog gets scared or started, it's much more likely to attack or bite—even if it's normally a very friendly and non-confrontational dog.
Stay Away From a Mom and Her Pups
Awww, how cute! You've come across a mother dog and her newborn puppies. You wonder if they have a home and, if not, how you can go about rescuing them. Before you act on this, however, think again. Mother dogs are naturally very protective of their pups and will do just about anything to defend them from a perceived threat. Therefore, you should never attempt to come near the puppies while the mother is present. This is a surefire way to get bitten or attacked.
Generally, the best thing you can do if you come across a mother and her puppies that don't appear to have a home is to contact your local humane society or animal control. They will be able to send a licensed and experienced professional to collect the dogs and ensure they have a shot at finding a home.
Even if you find puppies and there's no mother dog in sight, it's in your best interest to leave them alone and contact a professional. You never know if the mother dog could be waiting around the corner, and it only takes a moment for a dog to attack.
Pass Safety Tips Along to Loved Ones
Finally, it's also your responsibility to pass along these tips for avoiding dog attacks to your family and loved ones. This is especially true if you have small children in your home, as children under the age of 11 are among the most common victims of dog bites and attacks.
Sit down with your children and other family members to explain the importance of staying safe around neighborhood dogs. Teach children to never approach a dog they aren't familiar with, even if the dog appears to be friendly. Furthermore, because even family dogs can snap in a fit of aggressiveness (if the conditions are just right), teach your children to be gentle with family pets and to be aware of the common signs of stress in a dog. By doing so, you could avoid a major incident.
Even if you take all the proper precautions, there's always a chance that you could become the victim of a dog bite. After all, some dog bite victims aren't at fault for anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As such, you should also make yourself familiar with the most important steps to take following a dog attack.
The first thing you'll want to do, of course, is to get help. Yell to attract the attention of neighbors. If you carry pepper spray on your keychain as a defense mechanism, use it on the dog to get it to leave. Call (or have a bystander call) for emergency medical care, if needed. If you need to seek medical attention, have a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor stick around to speak with police and file a report.
Furthermore, be sure to obtain contact information from the dog's owner, if he or she can be found. You'll need this later in the event that you file a personal injury claim against the owner. And this is something you have every right to do. After all, if the dog owner has homeowner's insurance, there's a good chance that he or she will have coverage to help pay for your medical bills and other related expenses. Even if the dog owner doesn't have homeowner's insurance, you still have the right to bring them to court—especially in the event that the dog attack was unprovoked. You should be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, any lost wages from being unable to work, pain and suffering, and any other expenses incurred as a result of the attack.
Unfortunately, dog attacks are always going to be a concern in residential neighborhoods. However, while there's no way for you to completely avoid the possibility of becoming a victim, the good news is that by following the above tips, you can greatly decrease your chances of being bitten or attacked by a dog.
Furthermore, by passing this information along to your children and other loved ones, you can do your part to protect them as well. In the event that you or a loved one becomes the victim of a dog attack, however, be sure to find an attorney who will represent your best interests and defend your rights.