You and your kids are taking a leisurely walk in the neighborhood after dinner, when suddenly a dog approaches looking clearly distressed. You try to outrun the dog, but your son is bitten before you can get him to safety. What are your next steps?
While this is a hypothetical scenario, it happens in Baltimore more often than you might think. In April 2019, a child and an adult both sustained dog bite injuries when they were attacked by an aggressive dog on Scotts Level Court, just six minutes from our offices in Pikesville. The child was rushed to Johns Hopkins Pediatrics for treatment while the adult was taken to a local hospital. WJZ-TV CBS Baltimore reports the Baltimore County Police called animal control to the scene to try and contain the dog.
When your child is bitten by an aggressive animal, it can be devastating, for your child and for you as a parent. From the initial shock of the encounter to the resulting fallout, the damage can be physical, emotional and psychological.
When it comes to dog attacks, young children are the most vulnerable.
Young children are most often the victims of dog attacks and they have a higher risk of serious injury or even death. The location of a dog bite is commonly dependent on age. In younger children, bites are frequently to the head, face and neck. In older children, bites are more often inflicted on arms and legs.
You need to act quickly after an animal attack.
If your child is attacked and bitten by a dog, you need to act immediately. First aid for dog bites is similar for any skin wound for children:
- Control the bleeding. Using a clean washcloth or towel, apply gentle pressure to the wound until it stops bleeding. You may need to elevate the injured area in the event that a lot of blood is lost.
- Clean the site of the bite. Using warm water and soap, wash the wound and rinse thoroughly to cleanse any bacteria.
- Cover the wound. Pat the area dry gently, apply an antibacterial salve and put a clean bandage on the injury.
In the event of a dog bite, the most important thing to do is get medical attention. It is critical to have your child’s wounds thoroughly cleaned by a medical professional. The doctor will likely check that your child’s tetanus shots are current. Unfortunately, you may also need to get your child a rabies shot. Follow the doctor’s instructions to ensure the wound heals properly.
In addition, make sure to take pictures of any related injury and document the aftermath of the attack as much as possible.
After your injured child receives medical treatment, seek out everyone else involved with the dog bite incident.
Contact the owner of the dog to get information about the animal. Ideally the dog owner will cooperate, providing the information you need to get your child the proper care, especially if they’re someone you know. The conversation might get awkward – after all, people are very attached to their pets and can sometimes be blind to their faults. However, request the dog’s immunization records and write down the rabies tag number.
As soon as possible, you should contact the Office of Animal Control at the Baltimore City Health Department by calling 311. Call the Baltimore County Police Department at 1-410-887-2222 to get or file a report of the dog bite incident. Should the animal attack again, you should have an established record of prior issues. Animal control can also verify any vaccination records for the dog.
Know the danger signs of animal attacks and teach them to your children.
Teaching children to avoid dog bites is a big part of keeping them safe. Children should know some of the most common factors with serious dog bites so they can better avoid the situation. These factors include:
- The dog is in the backyard of a neighbor
- The dog is midsize or larger
- No adult is supervising the dog
- The dog is tethered with a chain or rope
- A group of dogs are running together
Baltimore County Animal Services offers these tips to make children aware of the possible dangers of dogs and to stay safely out of a dog’s way.
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Remain motionless if an unfamiliar dog approaches you.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing them to see and sniff you first.
- Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Do not play aggressive games with your dog, like wrestling with them
- Do not chase or tease dogs.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
- Do not scream and run from a dog.
- If a dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, your bag, your hat or anything you can put between yourself and the dog, like your bike or skateboard.
- If bitten, report the bite to an adult immediately.
Additionally, teach children to take note of the warning signs of dog aggression, such as growling, exposed teeth and stiff body posture, to name a few. Children should also report dogs displaying unusual behavior or stray dogs to an adult immediately.
Dog bite law in Baltimore is complex.
The laws governing dog bites vary from state to state. The liability of the owner and any provisions depend completely on the law in your state. While some states hold the owner strictly liable for any injuries and accountable for paying resulting medical bills, other states have policies that allow “one free bite.”
In this situation, the owner is not liable if it is the first time the dog has bitten anyone unless the owner had specific, prior knowledge that the dog might show such aggressive behavior. While there are ways to prove owner liability in these states, the means can be complicated. With the right representation you should be able to get the compensation you deserve for your child’s traumatic suffering.
Have a Legal Question About Dog Bites and Children? We Have Answers
If you or your child is injured from a dog bite or worse, the attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law can answer all your questions and guide you through the challenging process of Maryland dog bite law. We can help you find out if you can hold a dog’s owner or a landlord responsible for your injuries and file suit for damages. Contact us or call us at 410-356-4455 to set up an appointment with one of our dog bite attorneys today.g