Your Legal Rights: What to Do if a Dog Attacks You

Tips for Avoiding a Dog Bite Attack by the CDC

Tips for avoiding a dog bite attack provided by the CDC

As experienced dog bite attack lawyers, two questions we are frequently asked by prospective clients are, “How to stop a dog attack,” and “What happens if a dog attacks you.”

In Arizona, dog owners are held to a high standard, and can be held liable under a theory of “strict liability.” This means that dog owners must pay for all damages resulting from the dog bite attack, even if the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous.

If you have been the victim of a dog bite attack, you must reach out to an experienced dog bite lawyer to discuss your options and protect your rights. Keep reading for some tips on how to stop a dog attack and what you should do if a dog attacks you.

How to Stop a Dog Attack

Dog bites are a common occurrence. An estimated 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. This number could be far lower if everyone followed expert tips for avoiding a dog bite attack.

The CDC provides the following list of things you should do to avoid a dog bite attack:

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog
  • Do not run from a dog
  • Do not panic or make loud noises
  • Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies
  • Do not encourage the dog to play aggressively
  • Never leave small children unsupervised around a dog

How to Deescalate an Attack by a Dog

    • Stay calm. Avoid giving into fear or anxiety. Do not yell at or kick the dog. Staying calm slows the dog down and decreases the likelihood that it will attack.
    • Avoid eye contact. Stand sideways to the dog. This makes you a narrower target. Keep the dog in your peripheral vision and avoid direct eye contact.
    • Claim your space. Hold your ground. Once the dog realizes that you are not a threat and not threatened by it, it will likely lose interest in attacking.

Unfortunately, even if you follow the above recommendations, the dog may still attack you. Moreover, you may not even be aware of the dog prior to the attack, taking away your opportunity to deescalate the situation. For example, if you are out jogging and a dog chases you and attacks you from behind.

Try to remember the following tips in the event a dog attempts to attack you:

  • Give the dog something else to attack. For instance, if you are wearing a coat, pull your arm out of the sleeve and place it in front of the dog’s face. This may distract the dog long enough to allow you to get away.
  • Protect yourself. Protect your face, chest, and throat. Keep your hands in fists to protect your fingers. The safest places on the body for a dog to bite are the shin or forearm since there is a lower likelihood of severe bleeding.
  • Do not pull away. Pulling away can make the injury worse by tearing your flesh. 

How to Respond if Attacked by a Dog

If a dog attacks you, follow these steps listed below.

  1. Identify the dog and its owner.
    Immediately identify the owner of the dog. If the owner is not present, get the name and address of the individual that had custody of the dog at the time of the dog bite attack. Request proof that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies.
  2. Seek medical care.
    If your injuries are severe, call 9-1-1. Always seek medical treatment following a dog bite attack to prevent infection. Note that if you cannot obtain proof of rabies vaccination, you may have to get a series of rabies shots.
  3. File a report.
    After receiving medical treatment, file a dog bite report with the appropriate County Animal Care and Control agency. Filing a report is an essential component to substantiating a claim for damages down the road. Be prepared to describe the dog in detail, such as its breed, size, color, and any distinct markings.
  4. Photograph your injuries.
    Photograph all wounds. If necessary, seek the assistance of medical professionals to help you safely remove bandages. Also, photograph bruises, torn clothing, and the scene of the dog bite attack.
  5. Contact an experienced dog bite attorney.
    It is important to speak with a dog bite attorney right away. An attorney can advise you of your rights and let you know your options to recover damages for your injuries.

Vicious Animal Determination

In Arizona, following a dog bite attack…both the dog owner and victim will present evidence regarding the dog’s disposition. 

In Arizona, following a dog bite attack, the injured person typically will file a vicious dog petition with the court where the owner lives. The court will set the matter for a hearing. At the hearing, both the dog owner and victim will present evidence regarding the dog’s disposition.

The court may order that the dog remain quarantined until a determination is made. The court could rule that the dog is not vicious and have it released. If it finds that the dog is vicious, it could require the owner to take steps to mitigate future attacks. For instance, by keeping the dog indoors or having it neutered. The court can also order that the dog be destroyed.

If you are involved in a situation where a dog attacks you, follow the tips above to reduce the likelihood of suffering a serious injury. Following a dog bite attack, seek immediate medical treatment and contact an experienced Arizona dog bite lawyer to protect your rights.