What to Do When Your Dog Bites

Did your dog bite someone?   Are you worried about what’s going to happen to your dog next, and how to get through this without losing your dog or your home?  I’m going to tell you what to do when your dog bites someone, and how to help your dog stay alive.

Dog bites are a serious matter.  An aggressive dog will injure someone, perhaps fatally,  and cause their own family a large amount of money and financial security.  If your dog bites someone, even someone in your own home, follow these steps as soon as possible.  (Note:  This does not constitute legal advice.  I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on TV, and I haven’t ever slept in a Holiday Inn Express.)

What To Do When Your Dog Bites Someone: Day One

Collect your shot records.

Your dog’s vaccination records are crucial.  If your dog has not been vaccinated for rabies, or the vaccination has expired, your dog will probably be impounded and is at risk of euthanization.  If you don’t have these records, acquire them quickly.

You must collect your dog’s vaccination records as soon as possible.  If your dog hasn’t had a rabies vaccination, it’s definitely possible the authorities will euthanize your dog to determine if your dog has rabies.  The person bitten also now must have anti-rabies treatment.

Rabies is always fatal once contracted, so it’s super important to make sure you can prove your dog has his vaccination.

Call your veterinarian, and schedule a work-up.

When a dog bites someone, it’s important to make sure the dog doesn’t have underlying health issues.  Dogs often bite because they don’t feel good or are in pain (just like you’re probably short-tempered when you’re sick).

Dogs also might bite because of neurological conditions, like a tumor or other disease.

Your veterinarian can give you a clean bill of health and a copy of your shot records.  Not only do you need to work to keep your dog safe, you also need to get information to help prevent him from biting again.

Call the Police.

Did your dog bite in defense of you or your home?  When your dog bites an intruder, call the police, even though your dog might be confiscated.

It’s very important to call the police if you want to keep your dog safe.  The victim could come back later and tell a different story about how they were bitten.  They might change the story from “burglar” to “harmless passerby,” and change the location of the bite from your porch to the street.

A police report at the time might protect your dog.

Contact your homeowner’s insurance.

Many homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites that occur in your home or with dogs that belong to your family.  You’re probably thinking–do I really want to let them know my dog bit someone?  Won’t they jack my rates up?

Yes, they probably will.  They might even cancel your insurance, or require you to buy an extra rider to cover your dog.  But if the victim of your dog bite is considering suing, or if they need medical attention, this could get expensive fast.

What To Do When Your Dog Bites: The First Week

Contact a behaviorist.

If the vet gives the all-clear, the biting is clearly a sign of a deeper psychological problem for your dog.  A behaviorist helps evaluate the dog’s home life, and provides instruction to correct the dog’s behavior.  A trainer will not help.  A trainer teaches the dog that it shouldn’t bite under strictly controlled circumstances.  A behaviorist teaches the dog that biting isn’t ever necessary.

If you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, contact them as well.  They may have insight into the history of the dog, and they may also be sued, and deserve a heads-up.

If the behaviorist suggests putting your dog down, get a second opinion.

If a behaviorist suggests putting your dog down, get a second opinion.  When the second opinion suggests putting your dog down, strongly consider it.

That’s tough.  It’s tough to write.  But risking a child’s injury is foolhardy and, in my opinion, stupid.  Dogs escape, people enter property that they shouldn’t, and keeping a dog that you know will try to hurt someone is incredibly reckless.

Retain a lawyer.

If you intend to fight for your dog’s life, you might need a lawyer familiar with dog law.  Sometimes, the bitten party will let everything slide if medical bills are paid and the dog is put down.  Sometimes Animal Control will confiscate the dog, and decide whether to euthanize.

A lawyer provides answers to these questions and help protect your pet and finances.  If you are sued, you need to contact your homeowner’s insurance (as they will protect your money) and you may need a specialty lawyer to protect your dog.

May this never happen to you.

Use careful training from day one with your dog, and it’s unlikely this will ever occur.  However, many dogs develop aggressive behaviors through unintentional mismanagement.  If your dog growls, snaps, or freezes, contact a behaviorist as soon as possible to prevent future aggression.

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