What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

Why Do Dogs Bite?

As mentioned, dogs can bite people after feeling threatened in some way. It is important for everyone who interacts with dogs to understand what may provoke this aggressive behavior.

  • Dogs may bite in defense of themselves, their territory, or a member of their pack. Mother dogs will fiercely protect their puppies as well.
  • Startling a dog, such as waking one up or a child suddenly approaching from behind, can provoke a dog bite. Hurting a dog even if by accident like pushing on sore hips in an older dog can provoke a bite as well.
  • Running away from a dog, even if it's during play, can provoke it to bite. They may think it's part of the fun at first, but even that can turn to aggression quickly.
  • Dogs who are in a fearful situation may bite whoever approaches them. This may be something as severe as being abused or abandoned, or it may be something you perceive as ordinary, such as a loud noise.
  • Injury and illness are a common reason as well. If a dog is not feeling well, they may not even want to be approached or touched by their favorite people.


Legal Action After a Dog Bite

Laws surrounding dog bites vary depending on where you live. You will want to contact an attorney to help you navigate the legal complexities surrounding a dog bite incident. A personal injury lawyer will have your best interest in this situation.

At this point, you will also want to thoroughly document your experience. Take photographs of your injury. Consult your doctor if you need guidance on the safest way to do so, especially if you have to pull back bandages. Take photos of all your wounds and the location where the bite occurred. If any clothing became torn or bloodstained during the incident, photograph it as well.

Begin taking notes about your personal experience. Record what happened when the bite occurred, and continue to record everything that happened following the bite, including details about your injuries, any medical treatment and your general thoughts and feelings in the days and weeks following the incident.

If you are dealing with a dog bite from your dog, follow the same steps outlined above. Be sure to gather as much information about the incident as possible, especially from witnesses. Again, if you report the incident, it may help prevent the same dog from attacking or biting other dogs and humans in the future.

Seek Medical Attention for a Dog Bite

When a dog bites someone, his front teeth grab and compress the tissue, while the smaller teeth tear the skin. Not all dog bites are the same, and the steps you take after a dog bite will differ depending on the severity of the bite and the type of injury that resulted.

Regardless of how severe the injury is, managing the dog bite as soon as possible is crucial. If the bite requires medical treatment, you will want to visit your doctor within eight hours of the incident. The biggest concern after a dog bite occurs is the risk of infection. About half of dog bites introduce bacteria.

An unvaccinated dog could carry and transmit rabie

An unvaccinated dog could carry and transmit rabies to a bite victim. You will want to treat the wound immediately — seeking medical help if necessary — to avoid the wound becoming infected. If you have diabetes or if your immune system is compromised, you have a greater risk of getting an infection.

If you suffered a minor dog bite and the resulting injury is a superficial wound, like a scrape or scratch, clean and disinfect the injured area, then apply a topical antibiotic to prevent infection and cover it with a bandage.

For a deeper gash or puncture wound, allow the wound to bleed for five minutes. The bleeding will help clean some bacteria out of the wound. Then, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean towel. When the bleeding stops, rinse the wound with water and clean it with a mild soap. If you have a puncture wound, avoid disinfecting with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, and avoid bandaging the wound as well. Just clean the injury and keep it elevated.

If applying pressure does not stop the bleeding, call 911. If the injury is bleeding excessively, or if it is on your neck or head, do not wait — call for help right away.

See a doctor if:

  • An unfamiliar dog bit you.
  • The puncture wound appears deep.
  • The wound will not stop bleeding.
  • The injury looks infected, meaning it has swelling, redness or pus.

If you visit your doctor, be prepared for questions. A doctor will ask you about your health and any conditions you have to determine if you are at greater risk of developing an infection. He or she may also want to know some details about the dog bite. Do you know the dog’s owner? Is the animal up to date on its vaccinations, especially its rabies vaccination? What were the circumstances surrounding the bite? Did you somehow provoke the dog?

Your doctor will be able to do a thorough cleaning of the injured area and remove any debris, dirt, dead tissue and bacteria. He or she will also take a closer look at the bite and determine if the puncture damaged any tendons, muscles, nerves or bone.

Depending on the location and severity of the bite, there are different ways to proceed in terms of closing the wound. Often, doctors choose to leave bite wounds open. If the wound is on your face, or if it is likely to cause extremely noticeable scars, your doctor may suture it to help reduce scarring. Deep or severe puncture wounds may warrant plastic surgery.

One of the most important tips for dog bite management is to take all appropriate measures to prevent infection. If you got a bite from an unknown dog or a dog that tested positive for rabies, you will need a rabies vaccination. You may also require a tetanus shot and antibiotics to prevent an infection.

Dog-Biting Tips for Dog Owners

  • Some articles make claims about which breeds are more likely to bite, but these articles are full of misinformation, and articles that scare people are part of the problem. Any dog has the potential to bite, but larger breeds can do a lot more damage. A visitor might laugh off a ferocious little Chihuahua but get really upset if your Rottweiler growls at them.
  • A word of warning: some states have a “one-bite” rule and allow a dog one free bite before it is determined he is aggressive. If your dog has already bitten someone in one of those states, or if you have been stupid enough to train your dog to be aggressive, the penalties are going to be a lot harsher.
  • Even if you have the mildest, most mellow old dog that would never bite anyone, you should make sure you have a secure place to put him in the house, have an insurance policy that covers him, and make sure you know of a lawyer you can work with if a bite occurs.
  • Sometimes, bites happen to the nicest dogs. People can do the most annoying things, and sometimes it is just more than even the best dog can bear.
  • Protect your dog's life. After all, she is always there to protect yours.

Can a Dog That Bites Be Rehabilitated? Dog Biting Can Usually Be Improved

The good news is that relatively few dogs are beyond help. If you make a commitment to helping your dog feel more comfortable with the world, there’s a good chance you will succeed. You will understand why he has bitten in the past, and be able to avoid his stressors while you work to convince him that what are now stressors for him are actually good things.

Like my own encounter with my Scottie’s capable canines, you will realize that the bite wasn’t personal, but simply the end result of a chain of events that were beyond your dog’s control. What a proud day for you both, when you can take him out in public with confidence, knowing that he is as safe as any dog can be in the face of the unknown elements of the real world.

What to do if we suspect that a dog has rabies

When an adult is bitten by a stray dog he or she should tell their local animal authority immediately. Then they can take the dog away and monitor them for 10 days. This task should be undertaken by the parents if the person attacked is a minor. It is important to avoid contact with the dog we suspect has rabies. It is better to keep them in a confined space where they cannot hurt other citizens.

It is very important to proceed without delay. If after examination the dog is found to have no rabies, a simple injection of immunoglobulin will solve the problem. Sadly, if the dog has rabies, they will be put down immediately to avoid a long and terrible agony for the poor animal. And of course, prevent them infecting more animals and people.

Contacting a Dog Bite Attorney

Because dog bites are common, there are attorneys with extensive experience handling dog bite insurance claims, settlements, and lawsuits. These attorneys are usually well-versed in arriving at an accurate amount of compensation a dog bite victim should receive.

These amounts often involve detailed calculations for lost income and earning potential, pain and suffering, and other expenses. These legal professionals also have experience assessing a client’s likelihood for success based on their state’s dog bite laws and the outcomes of similar cases they’ve seen.

Lastly, a dog bite attorney can be instrumental in dealing with the other party’s insurance company and negotiating a settlement. While the insurance company has plenty of experience getting people to accept low settlement offers, a dog bite attorney is very familiar with the tactics used by insurance companies and other lawyers. They know the best arguments and evidence to use to obtain a fair settlement.

Current rabies treatments

If a dog or other wild animal bites you and you cannot locate them, you must attend an urgent medical check up and treatment for rabies. Previously you will have thoroughly washed and disinfected the wound at home, covering it with gauze.

The doctor will heal the wound and give you the prescribed medical treatment to follow. There are two or three different ways to prevent the disease. All of them are annoying, but nothing to do with the way the disease was treated some years ago. Today 4 or 5 injections are needed to mitigate the spread of rabies. These are applied on the arm.

The most common guideline to follow is to inject HRIG (human anti-rabies immunoglobulin), and then follow a treatment formed of 5 injections in the arm of human diploid anti-rabies vaccination. These will be administered following the guidelines of treatment on days 1, 3, 7, 14 and 28.

There are places where intradermal injections are used (between the muscle and skin), the results are satisfactory and the treatment is cheaper.

What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

If your dog bites, you have at least four options:

  • Manage his behavior to prevent him from ever biting again
  • Implement a comprehensive behavior modification program
  • Rehome the dog
  • Have the dog euthanized

1. Manage his behavior to prevent him from ever having the opportunity to bite again

While difficult, this is possible. It means greatly restricting his movements so he has no access to humans, other than adult family members. If company comes over, the dog is crated in a closed room. If the grandkids visit, he is crated or sent to a kennel that is equipped to safely handle a biting dog. Even if he adores the grandkids, the fact that he has bitten puts them at unacceptable risk. Unless you are 100 percent confident that you know what his stressors are and can prevent them from occurring during the kids’ visit, you cannot take the chance.

Of course, selecting this option means a reduced quality of life – no more walks in the park, on or off leash; no more rides in the car; and no more spending hours on his own in the fresh air and sunshine in the fenced backyard.

2. Manage his behavior to prevent him from biting while you implement a comprehensive behavior modification program. This requires a serious commitment

If your dog’s behavior is relatively new and mild, you may be able to accomplish this on your own. (See “4 Steps to Modify Aggressive Dog Behavior,” below.)

Most owners, however, need the (sometimes costly) help of an experienced, positive behavior counselor or behaviorist to help them succeed. The behavior professional will help identify your dog’s stressors, and set up a program to use desensitization and counter-conditioning to convince him that the things he now perceives as “bad” (stressors) are really “good.” If he changes his perception, they will no longer cause him stress, and they won’t push him over his bite threshold.

This doesn’t happen overnight. The longer your dog has practiced his aggression responses, the longer it takes to modify them. The more committed you are to working with him, the more opportunities he will have to reprogram his responses and the faster it will happen. Meanwhile, he must be crated or kenneled while visitors or grandkids are at the house, and not taken for walks, car rides, nor left to his own devices in the backyard.

3. Rehome him with a new owner who is willing and able to do one of the first two

Rehoming a dog that bites is a long shot. Depending on the circumstances of the bite and the dog’s general nature, some dogs who have bitten may be accepted into training programs for government drug or bomb-sniffing dogs, or as police K9 units. Your average adoption home, however, is no better equipped than you to make the commitment necessary to safely keep a biting dog. Most rescue groups will not accept dogs who have a history of biting, and shelters that do accept them will often euthanize, rather than take the risk (and the liability) of placing them in a new home.

If you rehome him yourself, you risk having the dog fall into the hands of someone who will punish him severely for biting, or otherwise not treat him well. You may even continue to bear some liability, moral if not also legal, should the dog do serious damage to someone at his new home.

There are millions of dogs looking for homes who haven’t bitten anyone. You love your dog and are trying to rehome him. What are your chances of finding someone to adopt him who is willing to take the risk of bringing home a biting dog?

4. Have the dog euthanized

This is never a happy outcome. Still, you need to think long and hard about this dog’s quality of life. If you can only manage his behavior, will he be happy, or miserable, being shut out of the activities he loves? Can you guarantee that the home you find for him will treat him well? Once a dog bites, will he bite again?

If you can manage and modify, and still maintain your own quality of life as well as his, by all means, that is the best choice. But if not, remember that aggression is caused by stress, and stress is not an enjoyable state of being. If the dog is so stressed that you can’t succeed in managing and modifying his behavior and he is a high risk for biting someone else, he can’t be living a very enjoyable life. Nor can you! As difficult as the decision may be, it is sometimes the right and responsible one for the protection of all of your loved ones, including the dog.

What you should never do is close your eyes and hope and pray that he doesn’t bite again. You are responsible for protecting your family as well as other members of your community. Denial will only result in more bites.


If a Dog Bites Someone, Will It Be Put Down?

There’s no federal law that covers the ramifications of a dog bite; the consequences will vary from state to state and even from one city to the next.

But, generally, your dog will not be put down for the mere act of biting someone. A lot depends on the context and severity of the bite.

The greater the severity of the bite and the less cooperative the victim will both increase the likelihood that your dog could be euthanized. 

Pit bulls and other “dangerous” breeds may have specific statutes dedicated to dog bite incidents. 

In most cases, your attorney will be able to explain how likely the court will force your dog to be euthanized and provide advice about what (if anything) you can do to help avoid this eventuality. 

If a Dog Bite Occurs

Don't delay, if your dog bites someone, take the following steps:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Confine your dog to a crate or another room.
  3. Help the bite victim wash the wound thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
  4. Be courteous and sympathetic to the bite victim. Avoid laying blame or getting defensive. This does not mean you need to admit fault. Remember that what you say may be used against you later if a legal or civil action is taken.
  5. Contact a medical professional for the bite victim. Depending on the severity of the bite, an ambulance may be needed. No matter how minor the bite is, the victim should seek medical care. Dog bites that look mild on the surface can get serious very fast.
  6. Offer to contact a friend or family member for the victim.
  7. Exchange contact information with the victim. Provide your insurance information, if applicable.
  8. If there were witnesses, obtain their contact information.
  9. Contact your veterinarian and obtain your dog’s medical records.
  10. Inform local authorities of the incident and comply with their orders.

Must Read Articles

What Might Happen To Your Dog And You After A Dog Bite

In some states, law enforcement is authorized to remove your dog from your premises after he bites someone. He will likely be quarantined at a local shelter or veterinarian’s office. If you can provide proof of a current rabies vaccine, you will save the victim having to endure treatment for rabies, and may reduce the amount of time your dog is held in quarantine.

Depending on the state where you live, laws vary on how dog bites are handled. California, for example, has a “strict liability statute” when it comes to dog attacks, according to Bisnar.

“This means dog owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs, no ifs or buts,” he says. “There are very few exceptions to this rule. If your dog bites someone, whether on your property or not, you are liable.”

If the attack happened because of an intruder, different rules could apply, Bisnar says, but generally speaking, any dog bite in California is considered the dog owner’s fault. States that do not have a strict liability statute when it comes to dog attacks usually have a “one bite rule,” according to Bisnar.

“You have to be on notice that your dog might have a propensity to bite people before you are liable for the damages caused by that dog’s bite,” he says. “You might also be liable if you are a ‘keeper’ of the dog — someone who does not own the dog but houses the dog on behalf of the owner — and you know about the tendency of that dog to attack or bite people.”

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go up