How many times have I heard someone say, “Oh, you don’t have to worry, my dog doesn’t bite”? Saying this seems to come as naturally to a dog owner as does peanut butter with jelly, or biscuits with gravy, or Jim Halpert with Pam Beesly. But I have a really hard time believing it.
Why don’t I believe it? Because dogs love to bite, and like any smart creature they do what they love! (Just look at my dog going to town, biting a stream of water from the hose!) And why else would they have sharp teeth? In almost every situation where I have had a client who has been bitten by a dog, it was the first time. This is also naturally the case, because dogs are often put down after their bite causes serious injury, so they rarely get to the second bite.
The Washington State Legislature also doesn’t believe it. That’s why they don’t give dog owners a pass if their dog bites someone else. Washington state, along with about 35 other states, is a strict liability state. That means that dog owners are liable for the damage inflicted by their dogs regardless of whether there is a history of bites. It is important to note that provocation is a defense.
However, provocation is rarely used as a defense, because dogs often bite when they are unprovoked. They might bite when they are nervous, or excited, or playing, or just because they are bored.
Tips to Stay Safe
As we enter into summer and spend more time outdoors, here are seven tips regarding what you can do to protect yourself from someone else’s dog that “doesn’t bite”.
- Remember that dogs are essentially domesticated gray wolves.
- Only pet a dog that you know.
- Ask for the owner’s permission before you pet, and don’t ask for permission after you start petting the dog.
- If you decide to pet a dog with the owner’s permission, remember that they can still bite you, so be careful that you don’t overstay your welcome even if the “dog” is a Coton-Poo.
- Teach your children not to tug on the dog’s ears or tail. Roughhousing can turn into “friendly” nipping or mouthing in return.
- Don’t tease or otherwise provoke a dog.
- Don’t put your face within reach of a dog’s teeth. The most serious dog bites usually occur when a dog lunges at and bites a person’s face or head.
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, please give Anderson Law a call. One of our Kennewick personal injury attorneys may be able to help you whether or not the dog owner has liability insurance.