Recently a Denver news anchor was bitten on the face by an Argentine mastiff. The dog had been saved from an icy reservoir the day before. The newsperson was interviewing two safety officers while petting the dog’s head. She then made the tragic mistake of putting her face near the dog’s head. The dog jumped towards her and bit her on the mouth. She was taken to the hospital where she underwent plastic surgery on her mouth. Her face required 70 stitches to repair. Apparently, she will require future surgery as well.
The obvious safety point to remember here, which we often forget, is to never put your face near the head of a dog. Dogs bite about 4.5 million people each year. The most frequent victims are children, ages five to nine. Households with two or more dogs are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home. With this in mind, I have outlined some safety tips to help prevent these kinds of injuries.
The CDC has the recommended the following safety precautions:
- Before bringing a dog into your house, consult a professional as to which breed would best fit your home
- Avoid dogs with histories of aggression if you have kids
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting
- Spay/neuter your pet
- Don’t play aggressive games with your dog, like wrestling
- Properly socialize and train your dog, teaching it submissive behaviors
For children, the CDC gives this advice:
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not run from a dog or scream.
- Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to seen and sniff you first.
California dog owners are responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, even if they have taken responsible steps to prevent the injuries from occurring. By virtue of the fact that one owns a dog, he becomes strictly liable for any injuries caused by his pet biting someone. California Civil Code section 3342 states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages suffered by anyone bitten in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the home of the dog owner.
If someone is bitten by your dog, they can file a claim for personal injuries against you. As the owner of the dog, you would be responsible for the person’s medical bills, loss of earnings, and for their pain and suffering associated with the bite, and any disfigurement caused by the injury.
As an Alameda dog bite attorney, I have represented numerous clients who have suffered very serious and permanent injuries caused by dog bites. By following the safety tips described above, we can all do our part to help reduce these serious and sometimes fatal injuries.
Denver TV anchor bitten on face by dog has ‘mouth stitched shut’, Herald Sun, February15, 2012
Dog Bite Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention