Dog bites are extremely common in the United States, perhaps more than you realize. The most recent research estimates 4.5 million canine-related bites per year, almost a million of which required medical attention.* Many of these injuries were considered serious, with some resulting in fatalities. Unfortunately, for the most serious dog bite cases, the number of child victims was double that of adults.**
Bites can occur in a variety of situations, but many of these are preventable. It may be difficult to determine who is at fault in a dog bite case, but experts agree that prevention is the best approach. Read on for some helpful tips to help your child avoid being bitten by a dog.
How Bites Occur
In some cases, kids may have a negative encounter with a friend’s or family member’s pet while visiting their home. Dogs are territorial, and a variety of stimuli can incite a negative response in their home. In other cases, the encounter may take place outdoors, either with a loose dog or one that is on a leash with its owner. In most cases, however, children are bitten by dogs when adult supervision is absent, when the dog is chained outside and the child comes within reach, when the dog is eating or when more than one dog is present.
Determining Fault for Bites
The typical reaction for most people is to blame the dog, no matter the circumstances, because biting humans is never allowed. This is true, of course, but it is important for people to remember and respect the fact that dogs are descended from wild animals and do not have the conscious reasoning and decision-making skills that humans do. Even the most gentle, well-trained animal, if caught by surprise or treated aggressively, can lash out. Consider the many more dogs that are not gentle or well-trained, and the risk grows exponentially. Depending on the circumstances, bite victims may be able to receive compensation from the owner’s insurance company, but this requires that the incident meet certain qualifications. To keep kids safe from harm, the onus is on parents to teach them how to avoid this danger.
Helping Children Avoid Dog Bites
Professional dog trainer Caesar Milan recommends three simple concepts to teach children. The first is to never approach a strange dog, no matter how friendly it may appear. If the animal’s owner is present, teach them to ask politely if they can pet the dog, but to understand that the owner may say no. The second concept is to remain calm if approached by any strange animal. Running away or yelling may incite the dog’s predatory instinct or cause it anxiety, either of which can lead to aggression. Teach your children that if they are knocked down by a dog, to roll into a tight ball, cover their head and neck and stay still. A child should practice Milan’s “No Talk, No Touch, No Eye Contact” rule. This both demonstrates respect for the dog and establishes the human as the pack leader.
Even with the utmost caution, bites can still occur. If your child or another family member has been bitten by a dog, contact the experienced attorneys at Montgomery Law. They can help you understand your rights and the Idaho laws that relate to dog bites.