Dogs are indeed man’s best friend. Even though dog lovers consider them one of the family, dogs have their own set of behaviors and instincts that differ from humans. And that means dog bites pose a serious health risk to people, especially children.
Would you know what to do in the event of a dog bite? Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way, both in terms of the dog’s owners’ responsibilities and your handling of the situation.
On the legal side, Louisiana’s Civil Code allows bite victims to hold the animal’s owner responsible if there is a known history of aggressive behavior. The statutes define what makes an animal “dangerous” establishing a doctrine known as strict liability. In some cases involving other animals, it may be possible to build a claim or lawsuit for damages based on negligence instead of using the state’s dog bite laws.
More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Even dogs that seem friendly or have no history of aggressive behavior are capable of biting under certain circumstances. Preventing a dog bite before it happens starts with learning a dog’s behavior. Taking the proper precautions can protect yourself and others—especially your children—from the dangers of dog bites.
Dog Behavior #1: Uneasy or uncomfortable
What you should do: The first thing you should do to avoid injury is to understand why dogs bite in the first place. The most common reason dogs bite is when they feel threatened or provoked. It may feel personally unsafe or that it thinks it needs to protect its territory, possessions, or pack. Or it could be sick, sore, tired, irritable, and prone to aggression. Dogs also bite or nip during play, which can seem harmless unless it’s with children.
Take note if you see a dog exhibiting signs of being anxious or scared, like tucking its tail, holding its head low, trembling, or avoiding eye contact, and always err on the side of caution.
Dog Behavior #2: Frightened or provoked
What you should do: There are certain situations where a dog bite or attack is more prone to happen. And conversely, there are things you can do to avoid a bite in the first place. Never approach a dog you aren’t familiar with unless it’s with its owner, and even then, you should first ask whether you can pet the dog. In some instances, Louisiana dog owners may be liable when their dog bites someone, but only if the owner knew the dog had a history of “aggressive behavior” or “in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known” the dog was capable of causing injuries. It’s best to let the owner make the call on whether they want their dog to engage with strangers.
Avoid dogs that are tied up or behind a fence as the dog may interpret your behavior as “invading its territory.” Other scenarios where you should avoid approaching are when a dog is sick, or injured, protecting puppies, playing with a toy, eating, barking, growling, or hiding.
When a dog feels provoked in some way, its defensive or dominant instincts may kick in, even if it’s an otherwise friendly animal. To avoid this, never tease, startle, hug, corner, chase or make sudden movements. A bite victim in Louisiana may be able to hold the animal’s owner responsible if there is a known history of aggressive behavior and can prove the owner failed to take action to prevent the attack, such as keeping the dog behind a fence, on a leash, or otherwise contained.
Dog Behavior #3: Aggressive body language
What you should do: By reading a dog’s body language, you can tell when it may be in a dangerous state of mind. If a dog is showing signs of aggression, like growling, snarling, baring its teeth, raising its fur and ears, staring at you intently, or charging at you, the first thing you should do to avoid a bite is to remain calm. Stand perfectly still, avoid eye contact, and let it sniff you if it tries. In most cases, the dog will lose interest and walk away. If the dog charges at you, “feed” it anything you have, like a jacket, bag, bicycle, or notebook—anything it can chew on instead of you.
In the event of a true bite or attack, offer your non-dominant arm, and more than ever, try to remain calm and don’t jerk your arm back. If you’re able to break free, face the dog and say in a firm voice, “No!” When all else fails, and the dog continues to attack, drop to the ground, curl into the fetal position, and interlock your fingers behind your neck. The key is to stay still and avoid fighting back or struggling. Once the dog is at least 20 feet away from you, slowly stand up and back away carefully.
After being bitten by a dog, you should wash and rinse all bite injuries right away. If the injury is serious enough, call 911 to report the bite and seek medical attention immediately.
Contact Us If You’ve Been Injured from a Dog Bite
Louisiana is a strict liability state provided that the owner could have prevented the injuries sustained from a dog bite. If you were involved in a dog attack, or wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.