Dog Safety: How To Avoid A Dog Attack And What To Do If It Occurs

Dog Bite Prevention

In early December 2015, a boy and his mother were taking a walk in Detroit, Michigan, when four dogs owned by Geneke Antonio Lyons, attacked the pair pulling the boy under a fence and leaving him with fatal wounds. The owner, whose dogs were known to have been a problem in the neighborhood, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and possessing dangerous animals causing death.

This sobering story is a reminder that although most pet dogs are our friends, there are dangerous animals out there that can cause injury, and even death.

  • According to a 1994 CDC report, an estimated 4.7 million people suffer from dog bites annually in the United States, with nearly 800,000 requiring medical care.
  • An estimated 336,145 people visited an emergency department with a dog bite injury in 2019, and nearly 60,000 of those were children under 9 years of age, per CDC data.
  • According to a report from the National Canine Research Council, there were 38 verified dog bite-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2018.
  • Over a 13-year period (2005-2017), 48% of dog bite fatalities were children under age nine, and children two years of age and under comprised the greatest number of these deaths.

All dogs can bite regardless of breed, and dog aggression can often be predicted by the dog’s owner, its past experiences, and other factors. With this said, what are some precautionary measures that can be taken in the face of a dog attack? The American Veterinary Medical Association gives some good advice on dog bite prevention and what to do in a dog bite emergency.

Avoiding a Dog Attack

Be polite and respect the dog’s personal space.

Be Polite

Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who is tied or confined behind a fence or in a car.

Never Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

Don’t pet a dog without letting him see and sniff you first.

Don't Pet a Strange Dog

Don’t disturb a dog while he’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies.

Don't Disturb While Sleeping

Pay attention to the dog’s body language; put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see a tensed body, stiff tail, pulled back head and/or ears, furrowed brow eyes rolled so the whites are visible, yawning, flicking tongue, intense state, backing away.

If you sense a dog might bite, do not turn your back to him or run away. A dog’s instinct will be to chase you.

Don't Run Away

If a dog approaches you and may attack, do the following…

Resist the impulse to scream and run away.

Don't Scream

Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.

Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.

Slowly Back Away

If the dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.

Feed Him Your Jacket

If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

Curl Into a Ball

If a dog bites you, try not to panic

Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Wash Your Hands

Contact your physician for additional care and advice.

Contact Your Physician

Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including his owner’s name and the address where he lives. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw him, whether you’ve seen him before and in which direction he went.

Injured from a dog bite?

If you, or someone you know, have been attacked by a dog due to owner negligence, contact the law offices of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti LLP at 1-800-LAW-1010 or by filling out this form to learn more about what you can do.