The American Veterinary Medical Associates (AVMA) puts the issue of dog biting like this: “There are nearly 90 million nice dogs, but any dog can bite.”
Whether the dog is young or old, male or female, big or small, it can still lash out when it feels frightened, nervous, protective, or startled. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dog bites result in over 4.5 million people being bitten each year in the United States. More than 800,000 of them require medical attention. Children make up at least half of the individuals who are bitten and they are also the most likely to be severely injured.
“Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Remember, it is not a dog’s breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog’s individual history and behavior.”
What do the dog bite statistics say?
A recent comprehensive study, cited by the American Animal Hospital Association, still found certain breeds stand out in the statistics over dog bites. The researchers reviewed 15 years of dog-related facial trauma cases from 240 patients treated at an Ohio hospital. In addition, they combed through 43 studies from the 1970s to the present that included data on breeds and biting.
Since “unknown” topped the list of breeds, they also looked at additional factors to narrow down the characteristics of dogs with a higher tendency to bite. The research revealed that the dogs most prone to biting weighed between 66 and 100 pounds and had broad, short heads. When information was available on the specific breed with the highest relative risk of biting, the list looked like this:
- Pit bulls (22.5%)
- Mixed breeds (21.2%)
- German Shepherds (17.8%)
Although breeds like Great Dane and Akita were identified as having a lower relative risk of biting, the average damage caused by their bites was significant.
Legal action for dog bites
If you are bitten by a dog, there are several steps you should take to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights.
- First, seek medical attention immediately, even if the bite seems minor. Dog bites can result in serious infections, such as tetanus and rabies, and may require stitches or other medical treatment.
- After receiving medical attention, report the bite to your local animal control agency or police department. They will investigate the incident and determine if the dog is dangerous or has a history of aggression. If the dog is found to be dangerous, the owner may be required to take certain measures, such as confining the dog or obtaining liability insurance.
What the law says about dog owner liability
If you decide to pursue legal action, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. California has a strict liability law for dog bites, which means that the owner is responsible for any injuries caused by their dog, regardless of whether they knew the dog was aggressive or not.
Specifically, the California Civil Code on dog owner liability for damages suffered from dog bites reads, in part: “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
In one notable case, a recent Penney & Associates client sought compensation for the injuries she suffered to her arms and the top of her head during an attack by a Rottweiler in a public park. The defendant’s son, who was holding the leash, was unable to control the dog as it chased after and bit her without any provocation. Penney helped obtain a substantial amount of money to settle the case.
California laws on dog attacks
In addition to the strict liability law, California has laws regarding dangerous dogs and vicious animals. Under California law, a dog can be deemed dangerous if it has bitten someone in the past, has a history of aggressive behavior, or has been trained to fight. Owners of dangerous dogs are required to take certain measures to ensure public safety, such as keeping the dog on a leash and muzzle or confining it in a secure enclosure.
If a dog is deemed vicious, it may be euthanized. A dog can be deemed vicious if it has killed or seriously injured someone, or if it has a history of aggression and the owner has not taken steps to prevent further attacks.
Dog attacks can be a serious issue, and it is important to be aware of which dog breeds are more prone to aggression. If you are bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately and report the bite to the appropriate authorities. If you decide to pursue legal action, be aware of your rights under California law, including the strict liability law for dog bites and the laws regarding dangerous dogs and vicious animals.
Contact Penney & Associates
If you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog, reach out to Penney & Associates for legal counsel. Our experienced team of injury lawyers is committed to providing the highest level of service so you can get the damages you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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