You've probably heard the term "dog days of summer." The term doesn't have anything to do with man's best friend but rather with the Dog Star, Sirius. From July to September, Sirius rises and sets with the sun, and coincidentally these are the warmest days of the year. However, interestingly enough, the greatest number of dog bites occur during the warmest season of the year--which is right around the corner. Most of these bites involve children. What can you do to protect your kids from dog bites? Further, what if your child has already become a victim?
By the numbers
There are 4.5 million people bitten by dogs every year in this country, and 20% of those injuries require medical attention. About 27,000 victims need reconstructive surgery as a result of their injuries. In 2013, 31 people died from dog bites. Less than ⅓ of bite cases involved family pets and, despite the plethora of pleadings for compassion from many people, the fact is that pit bulls are the breed most often responsible for attacks. Dog bites constitute ⅓ of homeowner insurance claims, and the average payment for such claims is about $28,000.
Why summer? Why kids?
Why do most dog bites occur in the "dog days" of summer? The overall answer is increased outdoors activity. As the weather improves, people head outside to enjoy it. For many people, outdoor leisure time includes their dogs. Despite strict leash laws, unfortunately, dogs are often allowed to run loose--where they come into contact with others who are enjoying the fresh air.
Unfortunately it is children, especially those between the ages of five and nine years old, who are most at risk for dog bites.
Kids often run up to unfamiliar dogs and hug or pet them, which often startles dogs into biting.
A young child will tend to run and scream when frightened by a dog, which excites the dog to chase and tackle.
Children will often stare into a dog's face, which gives the dog a message of challenge.
Children coming upon a female dog with puppies are likely to pick them up, provoking the mother to anger.
Kids are unable to recognize dogs' body language.
Avoiding a dog bite
There are ways to reduce the chances that your children will be bitten by a dog. Teach them the following valuable information:
Don't approach unfamiliar dogs.
If a dog approaches you, stay still and quiet. Avoid direct eye contact, and keep your hands at your sides.
Once the dog loses interest in you and walks away, you can slowly back away. Do not turn your back on the dog in case it runs back towards you.
If a dog does attack you, thrust anything you can in between the two of you. This could be your jacket, a backpack, or purse.
If you fall, curl up into a ball with your hands over your ears and try to remain still and silent.
Bite laws: who's liable?
If your child is bitten by a dog, what are your rights? The good news is that dog bite laws are becoming stricter all over the nation. Many have enacted "strict liability" laws, which hold dog owners responsible any time their dogs are aggressive to others. These laws are replacing the more traditional "one bite" laws, which allow owners freedom from liability for the first bite their dogs inflict (the idea being the owner did not know the dog was aggressive). This legal shift means that you are more likely to receive compensation.
Since dog bite season is almost here, teach your kids how to prevent canine confrontation. However, if your child is already a bite victim, schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer. The attorney will review the case and determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit against the owner of the dog. Depending on where you live, the law may very well be on your side and you will be able to collect full compensation for medical expenses.