Dog bites are frightening, dangerous and can cause traumatic injury – often to the most vulnerable victims. More than two-thirds of dog bite incidents involve children, who may suffer serious and long-lasting physical and emotional effects from these vicious encounters. To protect your interests and mitigate the potential long term effects you must contact an experienced dog bite attorney.
Why do more dog bites happen among children?
- Children may not understand the danger or aggressive nature of certain animals.
- Children often do not recognize the warning signs of a dog attack.
- Children unfamiliar with pets may not know how to safely approach a dog.
Washington State Dog Bite Law
Under Washington State law, dog owners may be held responsible for their dogs’ attacks if:
- The dog owner is aware of the dog’s history of violence or violent tendencies.
- The dog owner could have taken action to prevent injuries and failed to do so.
- The dog inflicts any injury at all – regardless of previous behavior.
The latter point is important, because many states that have a one-bite law do not hold owners responsible for first-time attacks. Washington does – so even if this is the first-time the dog has exhibited aggressive behavior, the owner can still be held liable.
Dog Bite Statistics by Breed
Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, recently published a report detailing all of the serious injuries and deaths caused by dogs in the United States and Canada between September 1982 and January 1, 2008. The report logs only those attacks where the dog’s breed or ancestry was identified, with the aim of examining which breeds become dangerous most frequently. Attacks by police and guard dogs and other trained fighting dogs were excluded from the log.
Between September 1982 and January 1, 2008, there were 2,524 identified-breed dog bite injuries requiring extensive hospital treatment, of which 314 ended in death. Pit bull terriers were involved in over half of those injuries, accounting for 1,312 (52%). Clifton points out that, while the definition of “pit bull” is somewhat vague, the frequency of pit bull attacks would be alarming even if half of those attacks were misattributed. Pit bull terriers were involved in 131 of the 314 fatal injuries. Rottweilers were the second most frequently involved breed, contributing to 429 injuries and 63 deaths. Wolf hybrids come in at a distant third, with 80 injuries including 19 deaths. If pit bull terriers, Rottweilers, and wolf hybrids are considered as a group, they make up 77% of all attacks and 70% of deaths.
Also included in the top 10 most dangerous breed types are the Akita, Boxer, Bull mastiff, Chow, German Shepherd, Husky, and pit bull/Rottweiler mix. The American Kennel Club point out that all dogs can bite, regardless of size or breed. Responsible ownership, training, and behavior is the critical factor in dog bite prevention.
A CDC Special Report on breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks, released in September 2000, showed similar patterns. Pit bull-type dogs were involved in over a third of the dog bite related fatalities included in the report. Together, Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs were involved in approximately 60% of deaths. The CDC study pointed out that, although both breeds are popular, it is unlikely that they make up 60% of the U.S. dog population, suggesting a “breed-specific problem with fatalities.” The study agreed that any dog, regardless of breed, can be dangerous if aggression is fostered in the animal.
Tips for Preventing Dog Bites
- Get your dog spayed or neutered. Pets that have been altered are less aggressive and less likely to bite. There are also medical benefits to neutering, such as lower rates of tumor development.
- Make your dog a part of the family, and socialize it by introducing it to lots of other dogs, people and situations. Socialized dogs are less nervous and fearful in new situations, and therefore less likely to react to the unexpected by biting. However, avoid aggressive social activities such as tug-of-war, which could encourage inappropriate behavior.
- Attend training classes with your dog to instill the importance of manners and obedience. The whole household, including the kids, should be involved in dog training. As part of its training, your dog should learn to drop toys and other objects on command so that you don’t have to reach into its mouth – a high-risk situation.
- Make sure your dog receives rabies vaccinations, and don’t allow it to roam freely with other dogs. In the event that your dog does bite someone, you will want to have the date of its last rabies vaccination on hand.
- Do not leave young children alone with a dog. Teach your kids to ask permission before approaching a strange dog.
- If you are approached by a stray dog, do not run away or make loud noises or unexpected movements. Stand in one place with your arms crossed, and do not look at the dog. If possible, toss an object away from both you and the dog. If the dog goes to investigate the object, take the opportunity to walk away slowly. If you fall or are knocked over, curl into a ball and protect your face.
National Dog Bite Statistics
- Dogs bite more than 4.7 million Americans every year.
- Approximately 800,000 of those injuries require medical treatment, including 386,000 emergency room visits.
- Children aged 5 to 9 are most at risk. A person’s probability of being bitten decreases steadily with age.
- A 1994 phone survey indicated that the rate of dog bites requiring medical attention was 3.2 times higher for children than for adults. Boys are at a significantly higher risk of being bitten than girls.
- While a recent study indicates that bite rates for children are decreasing, the issue still affects 1.5% of the U.S. population every year.
Our Experience and Commitment
Dog bite lawyer Ken Selander, Jr. of Selander O’Brien PLLC has represented families of many young dog bite victims, including a five-year-old who was bitten by a neighbor’s German shepherd while riding his bicycle. We were able to obtain damages to pay for his medical expenses, including stitches and other hospital charges. When a toddler was attacked by a pit bull and the insurance company would not cooperate, her mother turned to our firm for help.
If your child is attacked by a dog in Seattle or anywhere within the state of Washington, you should seek immediate medical attention and report the incident to Animal Control. Contacting an experienced dog bite lawyer is also important because dog bites can often cause disfigurement, facial scarring and other conditions requiring expensive reconstructive surgery. Your family should not be financially responsible for injuries caused by someone’s pet. Contact us for a confidential and free consultation.
What Clients Say
When my two-year old daughter was mauled by a pit bull, the insurance company wouldn’t even talk to me. Ken Selander was able to settle the case for a very impressive amount. My daughter is now set for a bright future. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Ken’s services.