Does Your Dog Bite? How to Protect Your Dog and Yourself from Liability

MuttShack Foundation for Animal Foster and Rescue, claim that dogs bite more than 4.7 million people every year in the United States.

The blame could be the dog's, the owner's, or the victim's. But the one who invariably pays, is the owner. The owner of the dog becomes responsible for paying for the medical bills, time lost from work as well as pain and suffering. The one who suffers most, is the dog that is abandoned in a shelter or disposed of.

Dog owners should assume more than their share of the responsibility for protecting people and other animals from their dogs, and also assume the responsibility to protect their dogs from people. Kids will run up to a dog screaming in delight and frighten the dog. A dog in his excitement to greet someone may jump up and scratch him or her. A passer-by may approach a dog aggressively or provoke him. Neighborhood kids may let the dogs out just to have some fun.

There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk:

? Spay or neuter your dog. This important and routine procedure will reduce your dog's desire to roam and fight with other dogs, making safe confinement an easier task. Spayed or neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.

? Socialize your dog. Introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so that he or she is not nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances.

? Train your dog. Accompanying your dog to a training class is an excellent way to socialize him and to learn proper training techniques. Training your dog is a family matter. Every member of your household should learn the training techniques and participate in your dog's education. Never send your dog away to be trained; only you can teach your dog how to behave in your home. Note that training classes are a great investment even for experienced dog caregivers.

? Be alert with your dog around children. Rambunctious play may startle your dog, and he may react by snapping or biting. Neighborhood children may be attracted to your dog, so make sure you have a child-proof lock on your gate and there is no way for little hands to get through the fence.

? Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Never teach your dog to chase after or attack others, even in fun. Your dog can't always understand the difference between play and real-life situations. Set appropriate limits for your dog's behavior.

Don't wait for an accident.

The first time he exhibits dangerous behavior toward any person, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer. Dangerous behavior toward other animals may eventually lead to dangerous behavior toward people, and is also a reason to seek professional help.

? Be a responsible dog owner. License your dog as required by law, and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. For everyone's safety, don't allow your dog to roam alone. Make your dog a member of your family. Dogs who spend a great deal of time alone in the backyard or tied on a chain often become dangerous. Dogs who are well socialized and supervised are much less likely to bite.

? Stay on the safe side. If you don't know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors or delivery or service personnel, keep him in another room. Work with professionals to help your dog become accustomed to these and other situations. Until you are confident of his behavior, however, avoid stressful settings.

I thought you said your dog doesn't bite? "That's not my dog" ... says Peter Sellers.

Seriously, if your dog bites someone, act responsibly; take these steps to mitigate the harm:

? Confine your dog immediately and check on the victim's condition. If necessary, seek medical help.

? Provide the victim with important information, such as the date of your dog's last rabies vaccination.

? You should cooperate fully with the animal control official responsible for acquiring information about your dog. If your dog must be quarantined for any length of time, ask whether he may be confined within your home or at your veterinarian's hospital. Strictly follow quarantine requirements for your dog.

? Seek professional help to prevent your dog from biting again. Consult with your veterinarian, who may refer you to an animal behaviorist or a dog trainer. Your community animal care and control agency or humane society may also offer helpful services.

If you have to let your dog go, don't drop him off at a shelter, where he will only be given a few days to live. Take the time to find him a new family. To do this there is a support and training network called MuttShack, at http://www.Muttshack.org, who will teach you how to re-home your pet.

? If your dog's dangerous behavior cannot be controlled, and you have to make the painful decision to give him up, do not give him to someone else without carefully evaluating that person's ability to protect your dog and prevent him from biting. Because you know your dog is dangerous, you may be held liable for any damage he does even when he is given to someone else.

? Never give your dog to someone who wants a dangerous dog. "Mean" dogs are often forced to live miserable, isolated lives, and become even more likely to attack someone in the future. If you must give up your dog due to dangerous behavior, consult with your veterinarian and with your local animal care and control agency or humane society about your options. Be safe, be responsible and most importantly, teach your dog to be a good canine citizen.

? Your dog lives to make you happy. If he understands what you need from him, he will make you proud.

About Muttshack:
Muttshack Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit, a project of the National Heritage Foundation, established in 1968. MuttShack Foster and Animal Rescue promotes the education and creation of foster homes for abandoned and abused animals.

Muttshackers rescue animals from shelters, rehabilitate and nurture them to health in homes (MuttShacks) and find them quality, permanent new families.

By intervening and rescuing shelter animals about to be put to sleep, MuttShack fostering stops the senseless killing of healthy animals in overcrowded shelters.

Donations Saves Lives. Visit animals online who are in danger of being put to sleep at http://www.muttshack.org. Join us in preventing animals from entering shelters that kill. Support Muttshack Animal Foster and Rescue Foundation, at http://www.registrationfactory.com/ v3/?EventUUID=B47421FD.

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