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How can we really prevent dog bites?

May 20, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

During National Dog Bite Prevention Week, better education on dog safety and the responsibilities of pet owners is the first step

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

The old saying “dogs are a man’s best friend” might be news to the more than four million people bitten each year — most often children and senior citizens. Some of these attacks result in emergency room injuries, reconstructive surgery and – for 39 people in 2013 – death, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Our attorneys handle serious dog bite cases. We also help people find qualified attorneys in dog bite cases where the injuries are less serious. No one is disputing the companionship dogs provide to millions of Americans. But more can be done to prevent dog bites.

For instance, in Michigan, where I practice law, there was a terrible dog mauling death that recently made national news. Two Cane Corso dogs, which had gotten loose from their pen in Lapeer County, mauled and killed a jogger on a rural road in late July.  The dog owners were charged with second-degree murder, according to published reports.

Prosecutors said the dogs shouldn’t have been alive in the first place, as they had history of attacking people.

This is an extreme and tragic example of a dog bite case. But it brings up many important issues surrounding safety, including what to do when you’re confronted with a potentially dangerous dog, and the responsibilities of dog owners to protect the public.

And this week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, a perfect opportunity to take the time to understand dog bite safety and your rights if you or someone you love have been injured. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Preventing dog bites: Watch the video below of Victoria Stilwell, host of Animal
Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” demonstrate how to avoid an attack by reading a dog’s body language and what to do if you’re attacked.

Teaching your kids: Teaching kids a few basic tips for spending time around dogs will help them enjoy safer encounters. Here’s a helpful page with tips on teaching your child to be “dog safe” from kidshealth.org.

Your responsibilities as a dog owner: Here’s a helpful page from ASPCA on preventing dog bites, which includes tips for dog owners on what they can do to help ensure the public and their loved ones are protected.

How your insurance could be affected by owning a dog: Many dog owners will face a financial penalty on their homeowners insurance — whether their dog bites someone or not. This is because the type of dog you own may cause you to have a more difficult time getting homeowners insurance. Or the insurance company may cover the dog, but it’s going to cost you more and raise your homeowners insurance rates. You can read more about how certain breeds affect your insurance in my recent blog post, “It’s not the dog bite, it’s just the dog.”

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