Not every dog qualifies as man’s best friend. A dog owner or dog keeper can be liable for harm caused by a dog that has behaved aggressively in the past despite not being provoked. Dog bites can cause lasting damage, both physical and emotional.
Dog Bite Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4.5 million bites occur each year in the U.S. In fact, approximately 1,000 Americans seek emergency room treatment for dog bites every single day. One out of five dog bites becomes infected, leading to a hospital stay with an average cost in excess of $18,000. A small percentage of dog attacks each year are fatal. Many dog bite injuries are serious and some result in lasting mental trauma. For more information on dog bites here in Maine, see our dog bite statistics page.
It’s estimated that there are over 83 million dogs in the U.S. The possibility of being bitten by a dog is real. So what should you do if you are bitten?
Dog Bite Liability in Maine
Maine recognizes several types of liability for injuries and property damage caused by dogs. The owner or keeper of a dog may be liable for negligence, may be strictly liability or may be liable under one or more statutes. Each dog bite case is different.
The breed of the dog, standing alone, does not establish liability. An individual dog’s behaviour, even if its breed is not generally considered aggressive, can lead to liability if the dog owner or keeper knew about its prior aggressive acts. The owner of a dog who was being teased or threatened has a defense if the dog bit under those circumstances. The circumstances of the dog bite, the dog’s prior history, and the owner or keeper’s knowledge of the dog’s history are among the factors that matter in a dog bite case.
How to Treat a Dog Bite
If you were bitten by a dog, there are some immediate precautions you should take:
If it’s a minor wound, you should treat it like any other, washing thoroughly with soap and warm water. Then apply an antibiotic cream, and cover with a bandage. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if the wound becomes swollen and red, or if you develop a fever. Remember that dog bites carry the risk of transmitting several diseases, including rabies. If it’s a strange dog or one that hasn’t been vaccinated, talk to your doctor about possible rabies treatment.
For more serious wounds with bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth directly to the wound until the bleeding stops, then follow the above procedure. In both situations you should seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if the wound becomes swollen and red, or if you develop a fever. Again, talk to your doctor about shots and vaccinations for rabies and other diseases.
Report the Bite
Call your local dog control officer or local law enforcement to report the dog bite. There may be local ordinances or state laws that come into play.
If you’ve been injured by a dog, Fales & Fales, P.A. can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.