Owning a dog may be an enriching and joyful part of your life, but you must also be aware of your potential liability for your furry friend's behavior. Should your dog bite a person or injure another dog, you could face multiple lawsuits and be on the hook for thousands of dollars in damages. There are, however, steps you can take to protect yourself from lawsuits and protect others from a potentially hazardous situation.
Recognizing Your Dog's Capacity for Violence
Dog owners love their dogs, but that same love can sometimes cause people to overlook their dog's concerning behavior. If your dog is anxious or nippy, it may bite with little provocation out of fear rather than malice. This fact may be unpleasant to acknowledge, but recognizing it and taking steps to keep your dog out of stressful situations can benefit both the dog and everyone around it. Dogs with painful medical conditions like hip dysplasia may also nip if someone accidentally hurts them, so keep this in mind as your dog grows older.
Reducing Liability At Home
If your dog bites someone on your property, you can still be held liable, unless you have provided adequate notice of your dog's propensity to bite. Many dog owners address the obscure chance of their dog biting by posting "beware of dog" signs around their yard and driveway. If you are worried about your dog's temperament around children and strangers, keep the dog crated or in a separate room during parties and family gatherings in your home.
Protecting Your Dog and Others in Public
Similarly, you are responsible for your dog's behavior while in public. If a child approaches your dog and your dog is startled and bites, you will still most likely be found liable for any medical expenses that results. You can avoid this by limiting a nervous or aggressive dog's exposure to other dogs and people or using a muzzle while in public. Become familiar with your dog's body language so that you can recognize stress quickly and intervene, and make sure any strangers approach your dog slowly and calmly.
Maintaining Adequate Veterinary Records
If your dog does bite someone, it will be quarantined until its rabies status is certain. Depending on your state and the specifics of the incident, you may be able to shorten that quarantine period if you can produce adequate records of your dog's rabies vaccination. This also demonstrates responsible ownership should a lawsuit proceed to court.
Recording the Circumstances of the Bite
Once your dog has bitten a person or attacked another dog, it is your job to document the details of the incident as thoroughly and accurately as possible. Having notes from the time of the incident can prevent you from getting confused later and be used to verify your account with that of witnesses. As soon as you get home, contact an experienced dog bite attorney like one from Scherline And Associates to begin preparing yourself for any charges brought against you and to protect both your pet and your bank account from the legal system.