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

In early December, a boy and his mother were taking a walk in Detroit, Michigan, when four pit bulls 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, “42 U.S. dog bite-related fatalities occurred in 2014,” most of which are attributed to pit bulls – the most dangerous breed – and rottweilers. Combined, pit bulls killed 203 Americans, about one citizen every 18 days, and rottweilers, which killed 38, about one citizen every 96 days. A large majority of these victims (48%) are children under the age of 13.

With this said, what are some precautionary measures that can be taken in the face of a dog attack? The Humane Society gives some good advice on how to avoid being attacked and what to do if you are:

Avoiding a dog attack:

  • Be polite and respect the dog’s personal space.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who is tied or confined behind a fence or in a car.
  • Don’t pet a dog without letting him see and sniff you first.
  • Don’t disturb a dog while he’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies.
  • 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.

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

  • Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
  • 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.
  • If the dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
  • 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.

If a dog bites you, try not to panic:

  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  • Contact your physician for additional care and advice.
  • 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.

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.