Living in Florida has it’s advantages. One of those advantages is being able to spend more time outside with our dogs. As a responsible dog owner and a personal injury attorney, I have special expertise here that I would like to share, and hopefully, prevent some unfortunate injuries. I have handled too many dog bite cases where the injuries to children could have been prevented. I say too many because each time I see a new one, I can’t help but feel that 90% of these cases could have been prevented.
Usually, it is the first time that the dog has bit anyone, and the dog owner is absolutely shocked and horrified that the dog bit a child.
Unfortunately, most parents don’t see the horrors associated with dog bites like I do, and they kind of let their guard down when their children are around strange dogs because there are no warning signs before the bite occurs. Recently, I saw a man with a dog outside of a big box store. He was just standing there minding his own business, and the dog, while on a leash, was laying at his feet. The dog looked perfectly quiet and relaxed. A mom with three children was approaching slowly, and the kids were super excited when they saw the dog. It was at this point in time that my legal antennas went up. As the family approached near where the man was standing, the dog leapt up and began barking very loudly at the children. The dog’s behavior clearly shocked the owner, and he had a tough time restraining the dog. The mom and the three children were visibly shaken by this change of events. Everyone involved learned a lesson that day, including me.
The owner learned to keep a very tight hold on the leash no matter how relaxed the dog appears to be. The mom learned not to let her children approach a strange dog the way they did. In the future, I’m sure she will be a little more protective of her children. The kids also learned that an unfamiliar dog is not like their dog at home waiting to play with them. I learned that no matter how many times I see children approaching an unfamiliar dog, as an adult, always be prepared for an outburst. The good news is that while everyone was a bit shaken, no one was injured.
Children need to be taught at an early age that it is not OK to walk up to any dog and start to pet them. Even if the owner says that the dog is tame and that it’s OK, it’s better to let the dog sniff you and take his time to get to know you before you just reach out with your hand.
Some tips for parents to protect their children from being bitten by a dog.
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog to quickly.
- If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, just stand still and let the dog sniff you and become comfortable around you. It may be triggered by your dog’s scent or something else.
- Never let children play with an unfamiliar dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Avoid direct eye contact with an unfamiliar dog until you have his or her trust.
- Never disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for its puppies.
Dogs are wonderful most of the time. There is a reason they are known as man’s best friend. They can be lovable and fun, and they are always there when you need them. But, they can also be protective of their masters. They may not know that an over-excited child just wants to pet them. So, it is our job as parents to watch out for our children and make sure they learn the rules of the road when it comes to familiar and unfamiliar pets.
If you or a loved one was injured in a dog bite incident, please feel free to give us a call to discuss what your next steps should be when it comes to bringing a claim against the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance company.