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Responsible Dog Ownership: Steer Clear of Legal Woes

Dog Owners, Be Proactive To Avoid Injuries and Potential Lawsuits

Did you know that annually, dogs bite an astounding 4.7 million individuals? With more than 62 million canine companions in our homes, this is an alarming statistic that warrants attention. Factors contributing to this trend include an increase in ownership of breeds perceived to be more aggressive, along with a rise in the number of dogs left alone for extended periods without proper socialization or training. Dogs that are isolated, especially those that are tethered, and not accustomed to interaction with strangers or without basic obedience training, are more likely to display biting behavior.

Understanding Legal Liability for Dog Owners

Legally, the scales often tip in favor of the injured party. Gone are the days when dog owners benefited from the "one free bite" rule, where liability was contingent on the owner's knowledge of the dog's propensity to cause harm. Nowadays, in many jurisdictions, dog owners are held responsible for any damage their pet inflicts, regardless of the dog's prior behavior. Dog owners could find themselves responsible for a victim's medical bills, lost income, and even counseling fees for emotional distress. There are exceptions, such as if the dog was provoked or if the injured person was trespassing, but such defenses can be difficult to establish.

Rather than wrangling with questions of fault after an incident, it is decidedly preferable for dog owners to take preventative measures to avert biting occurrences altogether.

Proactive Canine Training and Management

As a devoted dog owner, your duty is to ensure your four-legged friend is well-trained and sociable. Humane societies offer affordable obedience classes, a great starting point for behavior training. Resources like "How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend" and "The Art of Raising a Puppy" by the Monks of New Skete are also excellent for tips on effective dog training.

Additionally, spaying or neutering your canine companion greatly reduces the propensity for biting—an unsterilized dog is three times more likely to bite, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Sterilization can often prevent wandering tendencies as well.

Consider implementing these simple precautions:

  • Restrict your dog's roaming. In several states, owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog if it's running free.
  • Stay updated on vaccinations, especially against rabies. Post-bite consequences are more severe for both the dog and owner if vaccinations aren't current.
  • Limit access to strangers. Securely confine your dog away from areas frequented by visitors to your property.
  • Display cautionary signage. If your dog poses a potential threat, "Beware of Dog" signs can alert visitors, though it's crucial to remember this is not a safeguard for children who cannot read.
Educating Your Kids on Safe Dog Interactions

Children, particularly boys, are more commonly victims of dog bites. Often, these incidents happen because children don't know how to interact safely with dogs. Teach your children these essential guidelines:

  • Allow a dog to become familiar with your scent before petting it.
  • Never bother a dog while it's eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  • Avoid running from a dog or making direct eye contact, which can be perceived as a threat.
  • Understand that even familiar dogs can bite, especially in their own territory where they might be more defensive.

At Flaxman Law Group, we emphasize prevention but also recognize the need for strong legal support when incidents occur. If you or someone you know has been involved in a dog-related injury, our experienced attorneys are here to help. Contact us at 954-987-0099 for a free accident consultation. Your safety and rights are our top priority.

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