When You’re Hurt by a Dog
Whether you’re a pet owner, animal lover, or simply someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the reality is that anyone can be the victim of a dog bite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year. If you’ve been bitten, here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself.
After a Bite: Taking Care of the Wound
Of the almost 5 million people bitten by dogs every year, only about 80,000 people seek medical attention, and half of those are children. If you or a loved one is bitten by an animal, the first thing you need to do is treat the injury.
Seek medical attention. If the wound is serious you need to seek medical attention immediately. Deep puncture wounds, wounds that won’t stop bleeding, or wounds that cause tearing or other injuries should prompt you to call your doctor or visit an emergency room. You should also seek medical attention if you believe the animal could have been infected with rabies. Bites from wild animals, especially bats, as well as domesticated animals that you are not familiar with or do not know the immunization status of, should also prompt you to see your doctor. It’s unlikely that any animal you come across carries rabies, but because of the disease’s serious nature, you always want to see your doctor after a bite from an animal that might be a rabies carrier.
Irrigate and bandage. Most minor dog bites do not require you to see a doctor, but you can take precautions to prevent the injury from becoming infected. Wash the wound with mild soap and water. Once clean, apply an antibiotic cream to the injured area and cover it with a sterile bandage.
Infections. In the days following the bite, monitor the wound, and change the bandage when necessary. If the wound becomes more tender to the touch or you notice redness, oozing, swelling, or more pain, you should contact your doctor because it may have become infected.
After a Bite: Gathering Information
A dog bite can also lead to legal problems for the owner, especially if the dog has bitten people before. If you don’t need to seek immediate medical attention for the bite, you should try to collect information to help you in the event that you need to try to collect compensation for any damages you’ve sustained.
Talk to the dog’s owner. You need to protect yourself first by getting as much information about the dog as possible. Talk to the owner and ask for his or her contact information. You should also find out as much as you can about the vaccination status of the animal, including contact information for the animal’s veterinarian.
Talk to witnesses. If there were others in the area who saw the bite occur, talk to them and ask for their contact information. Witnesses will be able to provide testimonial evidence if you ever have to go to court.
Contact animal control. If the owner isn’t nearby or you cannot identify the dog from its tag, you need to contact your city or county animal control department. The dog could pose a danger to others and may need to be quarantined to determine whether it’s carrying any diseases.
Consider Talking to a Lawyer
You may never have to sue anyone, but you need to be ready to protect your interests. If you’ve suffered pain, permanent damage, have had to miss work, or have had to pay medical expenses as a result of the bite, you need to talk to a local lawyer. A personal injury attorney in your area can evaluate your case and tell you what your legal options are.