Dogs have been man's best friend for tens of thousands of years. Unfortunately, 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the United States. Over half of these happen at home with dogs familiar to the victim. But what should you do if you encounter an unfamiliar dog and find yourself in danger of--or even experiencing--an attack?
Approaching the Unknown
Say you're out for a run and, as you turn the corner onto a new street, you notice an unfamiliar dog untethered in someone's yard. There doesn't seem to be an owner around. The dog appears to be on its own. How should you handle the situation?
First, stay calm. Much of the time, a dog becomes aggressive because it is scared, and it may react to your fear with fear of its own. If you panic or shout, you may spook the dog and trigger its "fight or flight" instinct into a "fight" response.
If you're running or jogging when you encounter the animal, stop immediately. Stand still and turn your body so that your side is facing the dog. Do not make eye contact. In a firm, deep voice, say "No!" or "Go home!" Wait for the dog to lose interest being backing slowly away. Do not turn your back on an aggressive dog.
Look at the dog's body language for signs of its mood and intentions. A dog with a tense body, stiff tail, and head and ears pulled back is uncomfortable and may bite. An uncomfortable dog might also yawn, flick its tongue, and stare intensely. If the dog is backing away from you, let it.
After the Fact
If the worst happens and you are bitten by a dog, there are a few things you should do immediately. If you can, place an object like a purse, bag, or jacket between you and the animal. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball and cover your head.
Again, try not to scream. If you can, get to higher ground. Try to cover the dog's head with a shirt or jacket. It may try to disengage if it can't see. You should take the opportunity to escape.
Once you are away from the animal, you should clean any wounds as quickly as possible with soap and water, then apply a sterile bandage. As with most animal bites, there is the danger of rabies and other infections, so you should see a doctor as quickly as possible.
In the longer term, there are questions of liability. Pet owners are responsible for their animals, and negligent ones may be liable for personal injury. You should consult with a personal injury attorney to see what your options are. Dugan & Associates are the injury lawyers for you. We work hard to carefully investigate every aspect of your case and get the compensation you deserve. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.