You may think you know the general rules of interacting with dogs—don’t pet animals you don’t know; don’t approach any dog from behind; don’t run when frightened; and don’t assume that a wagging tail indicates friendly intentions. You might also think you know how your dog will respond to people—after all, he’s terrific with your kids, a fine guard dog, and not a member of those breeds notorious for aggression. However, the continued frequency and even growth in the prevalence of dog bites evidences a public whose so-called awareness is not helping them.
This is probably because much of the most vital knowledge about dog bites is submerged by misunderstanding, misinformation, and defensiveness. The internet is rife with angry retaliation against the owners of dangerous dogs, oblivious to the true responsibilities appending dog ownership, and simple ignorance of the mind of a dog. While the information most people have is enough to make the dog owner liable for an attack should their foreknowledge not protect them from harm, a dog bite attorney should be your last line of defense against threatening situations—as always, the best defense is a good grasp of the facts. Listed below are several lesser-known common misconceptions of dogs and the circumstances leading to dog bite injuries:
- A “good” dog can be trusted not to hurt non-threatening members of society.
We’ve all heard about how dogs supposedly know the difference between an average Joe and a serial killer simply by the smell given off. (It seems that Ted Bundy had a complicated relationship with canines in general). However, the vast majority of dog bite victims are not twisted menaces to society—far from it, in fact. The American Human Society reports that, to the contrary of expectation, 82% of the victims of serious dog bites are 15 or younger; 5- 9-year-olds are the most common target. They don’t play fair, either: 65% of bites on children are administered to the face or neck, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a dog perceives a threat of any size, he will treat it as such.
- Dogs that are good with kids are safe in residential areas.
It’s no coincidence that the highest number of fatal dog attacks is attributed to dogs that have been bred and trained to fight other dogs. Pit bulls, for instance, can make loving and loyal house pets who graciously tolerate the jabbing of young children. However, a dog’s treatment of his family is not representative of his overall behavior. It is not unheard of for dogs’ in-house personalities to be context-specific—unless your dog has been accustomed to meeting and dealing with strangers on a regular basis, they cannot be called socialized—and you may find that your next-door neighbors have contacted a dog bite attorney because your big, fuzzy marshmallow thought they got to close to your yard.
- Dog bites do not carry as many disease risks as cat bites.
While it’s true that cat bites become infected more often than dog bites, this is primarily because cats have sharper teeth that puncture more easily. Dogs do not have needles in their mouths, but they have much stronger jaws that can crush tissue that isn’t punctured, making it more vulnerable to infection from the bacteria that all animals (you, too) have in their saliva. No animal bite injury should be taken lightly.
While measures can be taken to lower the risk of a dog bite, the conditions under which they occur are varied and impossible to predict with perfect accuracy. Additionally, no matter how much you know, the ultimate legal responsibility for a dog’s conduct rests on the shoulders of its owner, whether in Utah or any other state. Ignorance or misunderstanding does not exempt you from legal recourse if you become the victim of a dog attack—a dog bite attorney at Christensen & Hymas will be able to advise when you are unsure.
Image courtesy of: Fawwa Faww