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Dog Attacks – What To Do When It Happens

If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog or any other domesticated animal, you are very aware of the trauma that can ensue.  Medical bills and the physical trauma are compounded when you have to face the fear of possible rabies or even possibly death. 

According to, approximately 1,000 people a day, in the United States, visit the emergency room due to being bit by a dog.  Knowing what to do immediately after such an attack is extremely crucial to the victims’ health and well-being. 

In a case-study, conducted in 1991, entitled Which Dogs Bite? A Case-Control Study of Risk Factors, it was determined that “585,000 injuries resulting in the need for medical attention yearly and children are the most frequent victims.” (Gershman)  The study showed that 51% of dog attacks were on children younger than the age of twelve, with a majority of the injuries being sustained to the facial area.  

The report suggests that dog attacks by German Shepherds and Chow Chow’s, in front of Pit Bulls and Rottweiler’s, are the predominate breeds that are most likely to bite.  Other studies, found on Pit Bull supporter sites, actually reverse this finding.  Additional factors indicative of a dog being prone to bite included that the dogs were predominately male, residing in households that had one or more children and were not neutered.  It was also observed that these dogs were most likely chained up in the yard. 


Most dog attacks are the results of poor containment and/or training, taunting and, sad to say, bad owners.  There will always be bad owners who do not take care of their pets the way that they should, therefore, there will always be the potential for an attack.  Your best offense is a good defense.  Teach your children to respect dogs and their territories.  Teach them to understand the fact that, although cute and fuzzy, they can be seriously injured if they dog perceives that the child is a threat.

Dogs, for the most part, are not that aggressive; only exhibiting a natural curiosity or defending what they see as their space. The key is being able to tell if a dog is playing or is truly being a threat. Some breeds are known for being vicious; however any medium, large and some small sized dogs can be dangerous as well.  Watch for the warning signs of dog attacks. 

  • If you are approached by a dog that is holding its head either high or low, it is probably not going to attack. A dog whose holds its head level is in no mood to play.

  • If a dog is scampering about, that means the dog is playful and checking you out. An even, steady run means a possible problem.

  • Have something on your person or near you to use as a block.  You want something that will block the teeth from reaching your skin, such as a jacket or a stick.

  • Dogs sense fear.  You must remain calm in a potential dog attack situation.  Panicking will cause the dog to feel threatened and cause it to conceivably attack.

To safeguard yourself and your loved ones from dog attacks, you should be aware of the following information that can greatly reduce your risk of a dog attack:

  • After obtaining the owner's approval, extend the BACK OF YOUR HAND (NOT YOUR FINGERS) to the dog and allow the dog to sniff you before you try to pet it. 

  • ALWAYS ASK the owner's permission before you attempt to touch or pet the dog.

  • ALWAYS BE AWARE of dogs around your children, including family pets. A record number of dog attacks happen to children.

  • Children should NEVER be alone with a dog.

  • DO NOT chase or tease dogs, even if you are familiar with them.

  • DO NOT get the dog over-excited by engaging in overly rough play. A dog's instincts may overpower its self-control.

  • DO NOT stare a strange or threatening dog in the eyes.

  • DO NOT suddenly approach a dog, especially when you are in its territory.

  • DO NOT touch or pet a dog that is resting or sleeping.  Remember the old adage, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.

  • DO NOT try to touch a dog that is eating.

  • If feeling threatened by a dog, DO NOT RUN. Many dogs' have the instinct to give chase, so remain calm. DO NOT SCREAM.  Always use a firm voice with the dog.

  • If the dog attacks, use anything that you can to put something between yourself and the dog (i.e., jacket, purse, etc.).

  • If you are jogging, running or roller-blading, where you might attract a dog's attention through your rapid movement, you should try stay a safe distance from the dogs, including dogs on leashes. If an unrestrained dog (no chain or leash) approaches you, DO NOT TRY TO OUTRUN IT.  Odds are good that it is a lot faster than you are.  Instead, keep still until the dog loses interest in you.

  • If you are knocked down, curl into a ball with your hands covering your ears and remain motionless. DO NOT SCREAM OR ROLL AROUND.

  • If you suspect that a dog is abused or neglected, respect the fact that the dog may be dangerous.

  • If you suspect that a dog may attack, STAND STILL WITH HANDS AT YOUR SIDES. Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away from the dog until he is out of sight.

  • NEVER approach a barking dog, even if he is wagging his tail.

  • NEVER approach a restrained or confined dog.

  • NEVER discipline a dog by hitting it.

  • NEVER disturb a dog when it is eating or drinking.

  • NEVER disturb a sleeping dog.

  • NEVER interfere with a dog when it is caring for its puppies, particularly if the dog is nursing.

  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. 

  • NEVER startle a dog by waking it up or throwing an object in its direction.NEVER take a toy or food from a dog.

  • STAY AWAY from dogs that you are not familiar with.

  • Treat ALL DOGS as potentially dangerous, unless controlled by an adult.

  • Use extreme caution in small or enclosed areas, where a dog may feel cornered.

  • When confronted by a dog that is trying to sniff you, remain calm and stand still; DO NOT try to run away. Most dogs will move away after determining that you are not posing a threat.

  • When riding a bike you are not only at risk of being bitten, you also at risk of being injured if you should hit a dog as it may run in front of your bicycle. Keep distance between yourself and any dogs.

Try to locate a large stick and hit the dog across the back of the neck. Do not hit a large dog on the head, especially mastiff-type breeds that have very thick skulls.  The only thing you will accomplish is making the dog angrier than it already is.  The best place to hit a large dog that will have the most effect is across the back of the dogs’ neck near the base of the skull. For smaller or medium-sized dogs, smacking them across their nose is usually effective.

If you have been injured by a dog bite, apply gentle pressure to stop minor bleeding and immediately cleanse the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water, using a clean cloth or sterile gauze pad. Using sterile Band-Aids (for very small cuts) or sterile bandages; apply fresh bandages and antibiotic ointment at least one or two times a day.

If the bleeding is serious and it won't stop after several minutes of applying pressure, call an ambulance or go to the emergency room. Puncture wounds from the dog’s fangs, as well as scrapes and abrasions, can easily become infected. An infected wound can result in severe scarring as well as cause serious complications and side effects later on. Also, delaying treatment reduces the possibility of suturing your wounds, increasing the severity of scarring and possibility complicating your recovery.  If the injury is not serious contact your family physician for further care and advice.  You may be required to receive a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one over the past five years.

After dealing with any injuries, try to identify the dog. There is a potential that the dog may have rabies and therefore it is important to verify that the dog has been vaccinated, and if not, that the victim receives appropriate vaccines.  The best avenues for identifying the dog and the owner of the dog are through vaccination records, license records at the local Animal Control and through witnesses.  

Following the following advice will set you on the road to protecting yourself and your loved ones rights, when bitten by a dog in the State of Michigan:

  • Don't argue with the dog owner. Many dog owners simply won't believe that their dog would bite at all, or if not severely provoked. Arguing doesn't do any good.

  • Don't sign papers or make recorded statements. It is possible that the dog owner, property owner, or their insurance company will try to get you to make a statement, in writing or on tape, about what happened. Their goal is probably to get you to make statements which help them avoid their liability for your injuries. If they approach you, you should consider having a lawyer assist you.

  • Make a report of the incident to the police. The police will investigate the circumstances of the dog bite, and will make a report which may help establish what happened.

  • Report the dog attack to the local animal control agency in your community. Give all the information that you know about the dog, including name and address of the animals’ owner.

  • Should the dog be a stray, you should, again, make a report to your local animal control agency; giving a description of where you saw the dog, whether you saw it before it attacked you and what direction the dog went after the attack.

  • Contact the Law Offices of Rex Anderson at (810) 653-3300 to protect your rights and ensure that you will have the finest representation while litigating your claim.

Although considered man's best friend dog bite occurrences seem to be increasing with each passing year; many incidents due to improper training and owners that abuse and/or neglect their dogs. It is usually not in a dog’s temperament to naturally attack people unless they were trained to do so or are not properly socialized. Keep yourself and your children safe by remaining under control and respecting the fact that any dog is not 100% safe.

Following the aforementioned steps will increase your odds of preventing a dog from biting you or your loved ones, however in the event that you happen to be bit, follow the above guidelines carefully. You have specific rights as a dog bite victim; losing your rights could leave you with permanent physical, mental and financial scars.


Why should you consult the Law Offices of Rex Anderson?  Rex is an attorney who has litigated many dog bite cases over the past twenty years.  Rex’s team can help you get the compensation you are entitled to receive for your financial losses, pain and suffering. If an insurance company offers a settlement, it is prudent to have a lawyer review the offer. Insurance companies are infamous for making low-ball offers to unrepresented victims. Our office has the professional expertise to identify and preserve evidence regarding the attack, negotiate with the insurance companies, as well as identify other people or entities, in addition to the dog's owner, who may also be liable for damages, and take any necessary steps to ensure that you receive a fair settlement. Call 810-653-3300 now to speak with attorney Rex Anderson.

Collaborative Writing by Rex C. Anderson, Esquire and Contributing Research/Writing by Sheryl L. Sutter


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