My dog tried to bite someone recently. What should I do if she does bite?

by Kelly Alver

There are a variety of reasons why a dog may bite. The dog could be in pain, feels threatened, wants to protect her territory, or is trying to establish control, among other reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, each year approximately 4.7 million people (mostly children) are bitten by a dog. Pet dogs are the most likely to bite and typically the dog has been friendly in the past.

As a responsible dog owner, there are steps you can take to prevent your dog from biting. These include ensuring that your dog is properly socialized, appropriately supervised (especially when around children), trained in a positive manner, spayed or neutered, and confined in a safe environment as needed. Understand whether certain situations, such as being in crowds or with small children, make your dog nervous. Try to avoid putting her in a position that creates anxiety.

Ensure your dog has regular veterinary check ups and gets the rabies vaccination. To protect yourself, review your homeowners or renters insurance to determine if liability for dog bites is covered under the policy. You may want to consider purchasing additional coverage.

If your dog does bite someone, remain calm and remove your dog from the situation immediately. Be kind and polite to the individual; make sure he or she gets medical attention if needed – and offer to pay for the medical bills.

Following the incident, seek training and/or engage a behavioral specialist or your veterinarian to determine why your dog chose to bite. Try to stay in touch with the individual and express your concern about the injury. Explain the actions being taken to prevent your dog from biting again. If you seem genuinely concerned and are taking steps to address the issue, he or she may decide to drop the matter.

There can be legal consequences if the injured person chooses to make a claim against you. According to the website of Attorney Kenneth Phillips, a leading expert in dog bite law, you could be taken to civil court, criminal court or “dog court,” where animal control officers can pursue action against you under state and/or local laws. Phillips notes that while dog owners often do not face criminal charges, they could be taken to criminal court if the injury is severe or if the dog has bitten someone before.

Action may also be taken against your dog. In Connecticut, when a bite occurs off the owner’s property, the law requires the dog to undergo an off-property quarantine. In an on-property bite, the dog is usually quarantined at home. “On-property bites are handled at the animal control officer’s discretion,” says Middletown Animal Control Officer (ACO) Gail Petras. “If there are other circumstances, the ACO may quarantine the dog off property to ensure the quarantine is handled properly.”

During the quarantine, the dog’s health is monitored and the severity of the incident is evaluated, Petras explains. From there, the ACO has the discretion to return the dog to its home with no restrictions, return it with a restraint order placing conditions on the dog, or issue a disposal order.

Our Companions offers many dog training classes and resources to help with behavioral issues. Contact OC’s Marie Joyner for more information: 860-646-9999.