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My Dog Bit Someone. Now What?

It can be one of the worst moments in a pet parent's life. Here's what you should do in the event that your dog bites someone.

dog barking at person

Dogs are not robots. They are living, breathing and often unpredictable creatures. So, even if your dog is the sweetest, most even-tempered pet on the planet, there is still a chance it they could bite someone, either accidentally or intentionally.

The following are some of the more common reasons why a dog might bite a person:

  • Someone startles or touches them when they're not prepared for an interaction.

  • They feel cornered.

  • The bite was unintentional (during dog fights, for example, it's not unusual for a canine to accidentally bite someone trying to separate the combatants).

If your dog should bite someone, even if it's just a nip, you have certain responsibilities to both the person that has been bitten and to your pet.

What to do if your dog bites someone

Keep calm and offer assistance to the victim: After a dog bite incident, the other person may be angry, even confrontational, but try to remain calm. If possible, get your dog away from the immediate area. You may, for example, need to walk your dog a few feet away and tie them up to a secure object. Do not, however, leave the scene.

Help or get help for the person: If there is a wound, help the victim clean the area with mild soap and water. You should also encourage the person to seek medical attention. If the person has a severe wound, you should call 911 for the victim.

Exchange identification information with the other party and witnesses: Provide your contact information to the victim and get his or hers, as well. It's also important to get contact information for any witnesses.

Consider getting a police report: If the person provoked your dog, or you're getting strange vibes, such as a feeling the person may be exaggerating the injury, you may want to get an incident report. Having a written record of the event could be useful if the victim decides to sue or if there is a chance that animal control could deem your dog as dangerous or vicious.

Report the incident to your homeowner's insurance: In some cases, homeowner's insurance will cover a dog bite even if the incident didn't occur on your property. According to NerdWallet, the average liability for a dog bite injury in 2021 was $49,000, so your insurance coverage could be a potential financial lifesaver for you.

Note: many insurance providers do not cover specific breeds, like bullys. If you're the proud owner of a dog that commonly falls under breed restrictions, you may need to do a little extra research to find a policy that covers you.

Will my dog be euthanized if he or she bites someone?

Whether a dog will be put down after biting someone depends on several factors, including the severity of the bite, the dog's history, and local laws and regulations.

In many cases, a dog will not automatically be euthanized after a single bite incident, especially if it is a minor bite with no significant injury. However, there are circumstances where euthanasia may be considered.

  • Severity of the bite: If the bite causes severe injury or death, authorities may be more likely to consider euthanizing the dog. The circumstances of the bite, such as whether the victim was provoking the dog, will also be taken into account.

  • Dog's history: A dog with a history of aggressive behavior or previous bite incidents may face a higher risk of being euthanized. Dogs with no prior incidents or a history of good behavior might be given more lenient treatment.

  • Breed-specific legislation: Some jurisdictions have breed-specific laws that target certain breeds considered to be dangerous, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers. In these areas, dogs belonging to these breeds may face a higher risk of euthanasia following a bite incident.

  • Local laws and regulations: Laws regarding dog bites and euthanasia vary by jurisdiction. In some places, a dog may be classified as "dangerous" or "vicious" following a bite incident, which could lead to stricter regulations or, in extreme cases, euthanasia.

  • Owner responsibility: The dog owner's actions can play a significant role in the decision. If the owner is found to be negligent or has failed to take necessary precautions to prevent the bite, authorities may be more likely to consider euthanasia.

In many cases, dogs that bite someone will be quarantined and observed for a period of time to ensure they do not have rabies or other health issues. Authorities may also mandate measures like training, muzzling, or confinement to prevent future incidents.

It's essential to be aware of local laws and regulations regarding dog bites and to take appropriate steps to ensure your dog is well-socialized, trained, and supervised to minimize the risk of biting incidents. If your dog does bite someone, consult with a legal professional to understand your rights and responsibilities.

Being a responsible pet owner means always being prepared. In addition to knowing what to do if your pet bites someone, you should also be prepared to help your dog should it get injured during the biting incident, for example, by another canine. That means making sure your pet is up to date on its rabies vaccination and knowing your veterinarian's contact information. It's also a good idea to have pet insurance to cover the cost of any medical treatment your dog may require.

Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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