Dog Bite Season Is Here!

Dog bites are not an injury to take lightly. Not only are dog attacks entirely terrifying, but the bites from these incidents can lead to serious injuries and infections. In severe cases, dog bite victims may have to endure years of painful recovery treatments and surgeries. And in the worst cases, victims may not survive long enough to seek treatment for their injuries at all.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States every year- one bite every 75 seconds. Of these attacks, around 800,000 people require medical care for their injuries, sometimes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on reconstructive surgery that could have been prevented.

As the weather continues to get warmer, more dogs will be out in our communities. It’s essential for every Long Island and New York City resident to know the facts when it comes to dog bites, how to prevent them, and what they can do to reduce serious injuries when attacked. Knowing these facts could help save your life or the life of a loved one in the case of a sudden attack.

Dog Bites Cause Serious Injuries

Around 36 percent of the American population owns at least one dog, creating millions of opportunities for painful and traumatic bites. Despite the belief that dogs only attack when provoked or trained to be dangerous, some dog breeds are more prone too aggressive behaviors than others, and all animals can be unpredictable.

Every day, over 1,000 citizens require emergency medical care to treat dog bite injuries, according to DogBite.org. Depending on the depth of the bite, the area of the body bitten, and the age of the victim, a dog bite can cause permanent damage and long-term health consequences patients may never recover from.

Dog bites injuries can range from mild to severe, including:

  • skin damage;
  • deep lacerations;
  • scarring;
  • broken or fractured bones;
  • nerve and muscle damage;
  • infections (rabies, tetanus, MRSA, Pasteurella, capnocytophaga); and
  • severed limbs.

Infections are one of the most serious risks facing patients who survive the initial attack after a dog bite. At least one in every five dog-bite victims contract an infection, and the results can lead to health conditions far worse than the actual bite itself.

Dog Bites Can Be Fatal

Sadly, encountering man’s best friend under the wrong set of circumstances could be deadly. Whether it’s from the catastrophic injuries to the body during the dog attack itself, or a secondary infection causing fatal complications, not everyone will survive a dog bite.

The statistics do not lie- the breed of a dog does matter. In 2018, there were at least 39 fatalities nationwide resulting from dog bites according to DogBite.org. The breeds responsible for the fatal attacks included pit bulls (26 deaths), mixed-breed (3 deaths), Rottweiler (2), Mastiff/Bullmastiff (2), Dogo Argentino (2), beagle (1), chihuahua (1), German shepherd (1), and wolf-dog hybrid (1).

Unsurprisingly, pit bulls made up 72 percent of fatal dog bites last year, even though they only contribute to 7 percent of the U.S. dog population. In a 14-year study of dog bite fatalities between 2005 to 2018, of the 471 Americans killed, pit bulls were responsible for 66 percent of the deaths overall. Here was the breakdown:

  • Pit bull (311 deaths);
  • Rottweiler (47 deaths);
  • German shepherd (20);
  • Mixed-breed (20);
  • Mastiff/Bullmastiff (17);
  • American Bulldog (15);
  • Husky (13); and
  • Combination of 35 dog breeds (less than 9 each).

Regardless of how friendly and sweet these dogs can be, there are far too many dangerous pit bulls in our communities not to keep resident on high alert. Dogbite.org reports pit bulls are 2.5 times more likely to bit in anatomical locations, looking to cause significant damage in their attacks and resulting in a high number of fatalities. In addition to being more likely to attack unknown individuals without provocation, pit bulls are more likely than other breeds to attack their owners. Only 2 percent of the inflicted dog bites between 2005 to 2009, rising to 14.7 percent from 2015 to 2018 with the adoption of more rescue pit bulls.

Dog packs can also pose a far higher fatality rate for victims than the actions of a single dog. At least 10 out of the 19 deaths related to dog-attacks was the result of up to 7 dogs attacking one human at a time. The breeds of these attacks included pit bulls, pit bull mixes, mixed-breeds, shepherd- mixes, boxer mixes, American bulldog-mix, and Rottweilers. The more dogs someone owns, the higher their risk for dog bites. Adults with two or more dogs are five times more likely to be bitten by dogs, regardless of how well a dog listens or loves their owners and family.

Children Are Most At Risk

Unfortunately, children are far more likely to get bitten by dogs and sustain fatal and severe injuries compared to adults. In DogBite.org’s annual fatality reports, 15 of the 39 attacks in 2018 and 7 of the 19 attacks in 2019 were children- the youngest only 6-months of age.

The most concerning factor with these child attacks is that the dogs biting children are not always strangers. Over half of the dog bite incidents occurred within the home of the victims and involved the pets of their parents or other family members. A study published in the Journal of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery shows children are at a higher risk of suffering injuries to head, face, and neck in the case of a dog attack, areas which prove to be more fatal in a dog attack. Children are also far less likely to know how to use defense mechanisms in the case of an attack, leaving them open and vulnerable to catastrophic results.

What’s The Law

New York residents have rights to a safe community without the fear of being mauled by aggressive dogs. Owning a dog is a privilege in the state, not a right, and there are laws that must be followed to keep communities safe from unnecessary and preventable dog attacks.

Most laws are locally based when it comes to leash requirements and areas where dogs are allowed in public. When it comes to determining ‘dangerous dogs,’ New York State has its own protocols to follow when a complaint is made by a witness or victim of a dog attack. NYS defines a ‘dangerous dog’ like an animal who…

  • attacks a person or other companion animal without justification and uses physical injury or death;
  • behaves in a manner which would indicate the dog poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious harm or death; and
  • attacks a service or guide dog without justification, causing physical injury or death.

Each municipality is required to name either a dog control/peace officer or employ their local police officers, to respond to situations where a dog attack occurs. These officers have the right to seize any dog who meets the following criteria:

  • any dog that cannot be identified and is not on the owner’s premises;
  • any dog that is not licensed, even if on the owner’s premises;
  • any licensed dog which is not in the control of their owner or not on the premises and there is probable cause to believe the dog is dangerous; and
  • any dog which poses an immediate threat to public safety.

When a dog is seized, a proceeding will be commenced to decide what to do about the animal. Unfortunately, euthanizing violent dogs is generally the outcome of a serious dog attack, especially when there is no guarantee that the animal will not hurt or kill again once released.

How To Prevent Dog Bites

Dog owners are responsible for keeping their dogs leashed and for protecting the residents of their communities, but we can all take preventative steps to reduce dog bite incidents.

The C.D.C. provides the following recommendations when it comes to what to do and what not to do when encountering a dog to help reduce bites:

Do

  • Ask before petting: Some dogs may attack when feeling threatened, and a stranger’s hand coming at them from above is not always welcoming. Especially with children, make sure you ask the owner of the dog if it is ok to pet and how.
  • Stay still: If an unfamiliar dog approaches you and your family, do not move. The sudden movement could scare the dog and cause them to go into attack mode.
  • Assume a ball position: If you are knocked over by a dog, curl up into a ball and tuck your head in with your hands over your ears and neck. This will help prevent the dog from bitting in high-risk areas.
  • Let someone know: If you see a stray dog or pack of dogs in your area, let the authorities know, especially if they are behaving abnormally.

Don’t:

  • Never approach a dog you do not know.
  • Do not run from a dog.
  • Do not panic or make loud noises to try and scare the dog.
  • Do not approach a dog when it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without them sniffing you first.
  • Do not encourage a dog to be aggressive, even in play.
  • Do not leave your children alone with any dog.

If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog that you do not want to come near you or your family, use these steps to avoid an incident:

  • Be calm. Do not panic.
  • Stay quiet — no loud noises.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the dog.
  • Say “Go home” or “No” in a firm, deep, voice.
  • Stand with your side facing the dog to avoid appearing aggressive.
  • Slowly put your hand on your neck with your elbows in.
  • Wait for the dog to take a move.

For more information on how to protect yourself during a dog attack, visit the C.D.C.’s dog bite resource page here.

You don’t have to avoid every dog this summer, but stay aware. Knowing what to do in the case of an attack, particularly when children are present can make the difference between life and death when it comes to a dog attack.

New York City and Long Island Dog Bite Attorneys

At the law firms of Siler & Ingber, our dedicated team has been standing up for the rights of dog bite victims in New York City and Long Island for over 20 years. We understand the complexity of these types of personal injury cases and the laws associated with protecting the rights of citizens in our communities from dangerous pets. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to a dog attack, our winning team of personal injury attorneys is here for support. Contact us today at 1-877-LAW-4343, or reach out online to schedule an appointment.