If you love dogs or you have always lived with a calm canine, you might never even think about the possibility that you could be bitten. But it is natural that dog owners do come into contact with other dogs that they are not familiar with, and that could put you at risk of being bitten.
It is every dog owner or dog lover’s worst nightmare to find themselves in a situation where they are bitten by an aggressive dog. Of course, the fact that the dog is aggressive is generally not the fault of the animal, but rather the owner – dogs only tend to bite when they are scared, startled, feel antagonised, or if they have not been socialised with unfamiliar people.
It can be a very traumatic experience and if you or one of your loved ones has been the victim of an attack from a dog it is important to understand the steps that you need to take. And that, naturally, starts with understanding how to avoid the situation.
Understand when a dog might bite
It is generally true that most dogs are not naturally aggressive. However, if a dog has been raised to be aggressive or you simply find yourself in an unfortunate situation where a dog feels fearful or protective of someone else, they can bite.
Look out for some of the warning signs that a dog might bite you or your child – they can often be subtle and may appear friendly to the untrained eye. If you see a dog avoiding eye contact with you, wagging their tail, and with fur standing on end – these are some early signs. These can progress to having a very rigid body, growling, snapping their teeth, and then being able to see the whites of their eyes.
Sometimes even when you understand these signs and take precautions, getting bitten can unavoidable. In that situation your first step should be:
Seek medical attention immediately
It is important that you should tend to your injury immediately, and seek immediate medical treatment if the bite has injured you. You should clean the wound by running tap water over it for a couple of minutes, whether or not the skin appears to be broken by the bite.
Once you can see if the skin has been broken you should remove any objects from the bite, such as teeth or hair. Gently squeeze around the wound to encourage bleeding (unless it is already bleeding freely). To reduce and stop a heavily bleeding wound place a clean pad over it and apply pressure. Once the heavy bleeding has stopped you should dry the wound and apply a plaster or dressing.
Unless the wound is very minor you should seek medical advice from a doctor as soon as possible. If the bite is severe you should attend A&E.
Identify the dog and its owner
It is important to understand which dog has bitten you, and who owns the dog, as well as to gather evidence about the bite. This is important so that you can rule out the possibility that the dog has rabies or any other infection that could be passed on to humans through a bite.
Additionally, it may later be important from a legal perspective. If the dog is a danger to humans then the authorities need to be informed about its aggressive behaviour.
Do you need to inform your pet insurance provider?
Some people who have pet insurance can misunderstand its purpose, and believe that they can make an insurance claim if they suffer an injury caused by another dog. In fact, pet insurance only pertains to injuries and illnesses suffered by your dog.
This means that unless your own dog suffers a bite injury during the attack, there is no need to contact your pet insurance as they cannot provide anything to you.
Can you make a claim?
Suffering a dog bite can not only be emotionally traumatic, it can also cause you to miss time at work. If this is the case, it may be possible for you to pursue a claim against the owner of the dog that caused your injury.
Many dog owners and dog lovers worry that pursuing a claim against a dog owner could cause that dog to be put down, and this is something that they naturally want to avoid. The truth is that compensation claims against owners do not affect the dog in question, so there is no reason to avoid pursuing a claim if you believe you should be owed compensation.
Pursuing a claim can be complex and may take time, but if you have been made to suffer financially through no fault of your own then you may be eligible for compensation.
Should I report the attack?
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act it is illegal for a dog to bite someone. If you suffered an injury caused by a dog, it is important to remember that this dog could attack again, even if you do not feel that your injury is severe.