Dogs may be man’s best friend, but that doesn’t mean they get along with everyone. Some people don’t interact well with dogs and some dogs only get along with certain people.
Even the most well-trained dog can become aggressive at a moment’s notice. It’s not ideal, but their unpredictable nature means they could bite at any time.
Dogs bites happen often. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the U.S. Of those, 20 percent become infected and require medical attention.
We hate the thought of our furry friends hurting anyone, but it happens thousands of times a day. So the question you have to ask is: what are your legal options if you’re bitten by someone’s dog?
Louisiana Animal Bite Laws
Louisiana’s animal bite laws are unique when compared to the rest of the country. Instead of following one principle of liability, they follow two: strict liability and negligence.
According to state laws, the owner of an animal is “answerable for the damage caused by the animal” if:
- The owner did know or should have known their animal’s behavior would cause damage
- Damages could have been prevented had the owner taken reasonable care
- The owner failed to take reasonable care
- The bite victim didn’t do anything to provoke the animal
Despite the owner of the animal being strictly liable, the victim can only seek compensation if they can prove the owner’s negligence. This is true whether the victim suffered minor or catastrophic injuries. In dog bite cases, providing evidence of the dog owner’s negligence will depend on the circumstances. That isn’t always easy.
For example, imagine someone walking down the street is bitten by a dog that wasn’t restrained in an unfenced yard. The person could argue the owner didn’t exercise “reasonable care” by failing to tie up their dog or fence the yard.
Louisiana law not only covers damage by an animal bite but any damage caused by animal behavior. This includes things like being knocked down and injured by a dog, severely scratched by a cat, or trampled by a horse.
Dangerous Dogs in Louisiana
Under Louisiana law, no one can own a dangerous dog without properly restraining or confining it. A dog is considered dangerous if:
- On two separate occasions within a 36-month period, the dog engages in any unprovoked behavior that requires the victim to take defensive action to prevent bodily injury
- The dog, unprovoked, bites a person and causes an injury
- One two separate occasions within a 36-month period, the dog has seriously bitten, inflicted an injury on, or killed another domestic animal while off their own property
The law also states that “any citizen or officer may kill any dangerous or vicious dog” without being prosecuted or held liable for doing so.
Louisiana allows for dog bite victims to file criminal charges against the dog’s owner if they have been severely injured. According to Section 102 of the Louisiana Criminal Code, anyone who owns a dangerous or vicious dog and doesn’t keep them restrained will received a fine of $300. If a dangerous dog attacks and injures another person, the owner could face a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
Why Dogs Bite
Some people believe certain dog breeds are more prone to bite than others. The fact is, whether the dog is big or small, male or female, they can all be provoked to a point that leads them to lash out and bite.
Some dogs bite because they are:
- Scared or startled
- Defending their territory (bed/crate), belongings (toys/bones), or puppies
- Sick or sore after an injury or illness
- Playing without meaning to bite hard
How to Avoid Dog Bites
Dogs aren’t humans, but all animals deserve a certain level of respect and space. We may own our dogs, but we have to realize they are still animals with their own personalities. Different dogs react to various situations differently. It just depends on the dog.
It’s the duty of a responsible dog owner to be aware of their dog’s mannerisms. You should be prepared to educate anyone who approaches your dog or sets foot on your property in regards to how to interact with your dog. For instance, if you know your dog doesn’t do well with children, it’s your job to keep them away from children at all costs.
The following tips are not guaranteed to prevent a dog bite, but they can help you avoid a situation where a dog bite is more likely to occur:
- If you’re buying a dog, choose a mellow breed known to be good with people/children.
- As a dog owner, socializing your pup while they’re young is one of the best ways to be comfortable around unfamiliar people and animals as they age.
- If you wish to pet someone else’s dog, ask the owner for permission before approaching.
- A dog’s body language is an indicator if they might bite. If a dog has a tense body, stiff tail, laid back ears, and furrowed brow, or if they are showing the whites of their eyes, yawning, licking their lips, staring, or backing away, they may feel threatened enough to bite.
- Never approach a stray or unfamiliar dog.
- Before you pet any dog, give them a few minutes to feel out the situation before you actually touch them.
- Never greet a dog with a sudden movement or by approaching them from above. This can be intimidating. Instead, stand back a few feet and make yourself seem smaller by crouching down.
- Don’t make eye contact with a dog until they’ve gotten used to you. Dogs can take direct eye contact as a challenge, making them aggressive.
- Try not to startle any dog, especially if they are eating, sleeping, or taking care of their young.
- Never leave children alone with dogs, even if it’s your family pet. Dogs and children should never be unsupervised together.
- Lastly, if the dog suddenly becomes aggressive, stand still with your hands at your sides. Don’t make eye contact, don’t run, and don’t scream or make loud noises. Slowly back away until the dog loses interest in pursuing you.
What to Do if Bitten by a Dog
Being the victim of a dog bite can happen quickly and with little warning. While adults suffer dog bites, children are far more likely to be the ones injured in an attack.
The following steps can help you make the right decisions after a dog bite injury:
- If you are bitten, remember: do not pull away from the dog. This causes the dog to bite harder and inflict further damage.
- If there is blood, stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure with a clean cloth.
- Rinse the wound with warm water, wash with mild soap, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover the area with a clean bandage or gauze. Minor wounds can be safely treated at home unless they become infected.
- If you can’t stop the bleeding or an existing wound became infected, call 9-1-1 or visit the emergency room right away.
- Once the chaos of this traumatic event has subsided, try to write down details of what happened. This should include a description of the dog and how it behaved.
- Do everything you can to find the owner of the dog to get their contact information. Find out if the dog has had all its shots. If the dog was a stray, seek medical attention immediately and let the doctor know in case you need a rabies shot.
- As soon as you can, report the incident to the police and your local animal control office. This allows them to take any steps necessary to prevent the dog from biting someone else.
Lake Charles Dog Bite Attorneys
Dog bite injuries leave physical and emotional scars. There are many people who have had experiences with dogs that were so bad, they’re unable to have them as pets or even be around them.
Whether it was you or family member who suffered a traumatizing dog bite, you may have grounds to seek compensation for medical bills, time away from work, and pain and suffering.
After contacting the authorities and seeking medical attention, your next step should be speaking to a dog bite attorney at Cox, Cox, File, Camel & Wilson. Schedule a free consultation by calling 337-436-6611 or contacting us online.