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Parents can help reduce their child’s high risk for dog bites

Children have a higher risk than adults have of being bitten by a dog. When children are bitten, the bites are also usually more severe than what an adult typically experiences. Dog bite injuries can cause your child pain, nerve damage, broken bones, infections and scarring, and injuries can be especially traumatic if your child is bitten on the face.

Because dog bites can be so dangerous for children, you may consider the steps you can take to protect your child when he or she is around dogs. Teaching your child safe behaviors to use when interacting with dogs may be one way you can help reduce your child’s risk for dog bites.

How can kids can be safe around dogs?

Because young children do not yet know how to act around dogs, a young child should never be left unsupervised around any dog. Any dog can bite, even the family’s beloved pet.

However, you can begin teaching young children how to act around dogs. A good place to start may be teaching the child how to pet the dog gently. You might also explain to your child that the dog has likes and dislikes.

Older children are able to learn more specific safety habits, such as:

  • Asking the owner for permission before petting a dog
  • Avoiding dogs that are not with an owner
  • Giving dogs space when they are sleeping, eating or caring for puppies

If a dog shows signs of aggression, instruct your child to stand still like a tree and look at his or her shoes until the dog loses interest. Running away from the dog or yelling at the dog could make the situation worse. If the dog knocks the child over, instruct the child to curl into a ball and cover his or her head and neck.

What should I do if my child is bitten?

Severe dog bites may need emergency medical treatment. However, you may consider having any dog bite injury examined by a doctor. Dog bites can cause damage that you may not be able to easily see, and dog bite wounds can easily become infected.

If it is safe to do so, you may also want to talk to the dog’s owner. You can exchange contact information and make sure the dog is up to date on vaccines. You may also consider reporting the incident to your animal control agency or police department.

When a dog bites someone, the owner can be held responsible for the resulting damage. A few exceptions include if the dog bit someone who was trespassing, or if the dog bit someone who was teasing or tormenting the dog. However, when a child under seven years old is injured, the court generally assumes that the child was not trespassing and was not teasing or tormenting the dog.

If your child was injured by a dog bite, it may be appropriate to seek justice. You may be able to receive financial compensation for your child’s medical bills or other expenses associated with the injury.

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