Avoiding Dog Bites

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From 2008 to 2012, more than 34,000 people in Arizona went to emergency rooms as the result of dog bites. For the most part, many of these could have been avoided. Read on to learn how to avoid dog bites, and also what to do if you are the owner of a dog that bites someone, or if you are the victim of a dog bite.

Avoiding Dog Bites

Dog bites can be avoided, but it’s up to you to ensure your safety. Here are some tips:

  • Be polite and respect the dog’s personal space
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog
  • Do not pet a dog without letting him see and sniff you first
  • Do not disturb a sleeping dog
  • Do not disturb a dog that is eating
  • Do not disturb a dog that is chewing on a toy
  • Do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies
  • Always be cautious around dogs
  • Assume that a dog that does not know you might perceive you as an intruder or threat

Pay Attention

Watch for the following signals that might indicate that a dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:

  • tense body
  • stiff tail
  • pulled back head and/or ears
  • furrowed brow
  • eyes rolled so the whites are visible
  • backing away
  • yawning
  • flicking tongue
  • intense stare

If you notice any of these, put space between you and the dog. Never turn your back, just back up and away from the dog. Turning and running will only provoke a dog’s natural instinct to run and chase you.

Here are some other things to remember:

  • Remain motionless
  • Keep your hands at your sides
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog
  • When the dog loses interest in your, back away until the dog is out of sight

If you are attacked:

  • Try to feed" the dog your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything else that you can put between yourself and the dog.
  • If you the dog causes you to fall or be knocked to the ground, curl into a ball. Place your hands over your ears and try to remain motionless. Do not scream or roll around.

What To Do if You Have Been Bitten

In case of a dog bite you should immediately take the following actions to preserve any and all evidence that could be needed in order to maximize damage recovery:

  1. Get medical attention.

  2. Notify police and the local animal control office about the attack. The reports they create can be very useful when later pursuing legal claims for damages. If possible, and you are not putting yourself in danger, confine the animal before calling.

  3. Take color photos and video of all bruises and wounds before and after medical treatment. It’s also helpful to take photos of clothing destroyed during the attack.

  4. If you are able to gain access, take color photos and video of the attack scene and the dog. Make sure to include a written note that the dog in the picture(s) is the dog that attacked. If you did not personally witness the attack, ask all witnesses to state (in writing) that the pictured dog is the dog that attacked the victim.

  5. Describe features of the dog, including information on its breed, color, size and any distinctive markings.

  6. Create a written diary recounting the attack from beginning to end. Include a history of events related to the attack such as the dates of medical treatments, the names of the treating personnel, procedures performed and medications taken, and all communications with the dog owner and/or responsible person(s).

  7. If able to, examine the license tag of the dog and make a written record or picture of the information. Arizona law requires licenses for all dogs at least four months old that are kept in Arizona at least thirty consecutive days during a calendar year.

  8. Record the dog’s owner and any responsible person(s) as well as his or her home address and telephone number. Ask to see a driver’s license to confirm their name and address information.

  9. Ask the owner and any responsible person(s) if they have homeowner’s, rental insurance or any type of insurance that might cover the attack. If they have insurance, ask for the name of the insurer(s).

  10. Obtain name(s), addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses even if you have to knock on doors to determine if any neighbors saw or heard the attack. Over the next few days question all passersby to determine if perhaps they saw or heard the accident. Ask to see a driver’s license to confirm their name and address information.

Arizona’s Dog Bite Laws

Free Bite and No Free Bite Law

There are variances from state to state when it comes to dog bite law. Many U.S. states are “one free bite” states. In these states, if a dog bites a person, the owner is not liable for any damages caused by the first time a dog bites a person unless the owner knew, or should have been aware of, the fact that the dog had a propensity for biting. Other states are no free bite states. In these states, if a dog has never bitten anyone, and the owner had no idea that the dog had a propensity to bite someone, the owner is still responsible for the damages done by the first bite.

Arizona is a No Free Bite State

Arizona is not a one free bite state. The law imposes strict liability on the owner of any dog that bites a victim, even if it is the first time the dog has bitten someone. Laws regarding dog bites in Arizona can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 11-1001 through 11-1029. One caveat to this: Arizona courts have decided and ruled that if the dog bite victim was bitten by a stolen dog, the owner of the stolen dog is not liable.  If you are a victim of a dog bite, or the owner of a dog that has bitten someone, you’ll want to work with an attorney that has handled dog bite lawsuits before. There are many ins and outs of these types of cases, and they will be able to help build your case, while also advise you on the specific laws regarding dog bites.

Building Your Dog Bite Case

You’ll want to make sure you give all you information to your dog bite attorney, including where the dog bite happened, how you recall it happening, time, and if there were any victims. If you had to go to the hospital for treatment, you’ll want to provide your attorney with medical records, and any other information regarding the injuries you suffered.

**Victim. **To win a a dog bite case, a victim needs to show they were in or on a public place, or lawfully in or on the private property of the dog owner.

**Owner. **If you are a dog owner, the defenses you can claim to a lawsuit filed under Sections 11-1020 and 11-1025 are if the victim provoked the attack. Conduct is considered provocation only if _a reasonable person would expect that it would be likely to provoke a dog. _This is often left to the determination of a jury.

Other Dog Bite Injuries

The statute applies only to dog bites, not any other kind of injury caused by a dog. If another type of injury, such as if you were knocked down by a dog that jumped on you, you will need to show that the dog’s owner, or the person in charge of it, failed to use reasonable care to prevent the dog from jumping on you and knocking you down.

Important Information for Dog Owners

There are a number of things you might not be aware of if you are a dog owner. Here are some lesser known facts:

  • Unless you have posted warnings for people to stay off your property with signs or locked gates, it can be considered that you have given “implied invitation to members of the public to approach your door on common errands.”
  • Dog owners are not the only ones that can be held responsible, but also any one who is responsible for the dog at the time of the dog bite. They are also held liable for the dogs actions, regardless of if the victim is in a public place, or if the victim has been invited as a guest into a home. The owner or the person responsible for the dog is also liable if the dog was running loose or not on a leash.
  • If you are walking a neighbor’s dog and it bites another person, both you, and the owner, can be held liable for the dog bite.
  • If you have kept a dog for 6 or more consecutive days, you are legally considered to be a “temporary owner” of the dog.
  • Landlords are not usually found responsible for their tenant’s dogs unless the landlord is aware that the dog might be dangerous. A landlord must also be made aware that there is a dog on the premises.
  • Dogs 4 months and older must be vaccinated against rabies and licensed annually as proof of rabies vaccination.
  • Dogs may not be loose unless they are being used for livestock control or hunting.
  • Dogs outside of the residence must be in a suitable enclosure or confined on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • It is unlawful for dog owners to harbor a dog that barks or howls on a consistent basis and disturbs the peace of neighbors.
  • When a dog bite causes injuries, the owner and/or person responsible for the dog may be legally obligated to pay the victim’s damages unless the attack was provoked.

Recovering Damages

A victim can be compensated for the following if it is prove that the owner is liable:

  • Any present or future pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and/or anxiety.
  • Present and future expenses of medical care, treatment, and services rendered.
  • The estimated cost of future care for treatment of any permanent scars or wounds.
  • The cost for legal counsel prior and after the trial.
  • Lost earnings in the present or future.
  • The cost of replacing damaged personal property.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

Filing a Dog Bite Claim

If you have been bitten by a dog, immediately seek medical treatment, but also, do not wait to file your claim. Do not sign anything unless you have spoken with a dog bite attorney. Because insurance companies often try to settle things quickly, you might not receive as much compensation as you deserve.

Also, collect any evidence possible, including photographs.

Under Arizona law, you have 1 year to file under the “strict liability” statue. You can file a claim based on negligence as well. This must be filed within 2 years from the date of the dog bite. An experience dog bite attorney will build you case and ensure that evidence is not lost or overlooked.

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