I am highlighting Acts of interest on various topics that will help build up to a very important week – Dog Bite Prevention Week which is celebrated annually the 3rd full week in May. Today’s topic centers on dog bites. Dog bites are, for the most part, preventable. There is a lack of education about how a dog says that he needs space through his body language; the lack of etiquette of people who should be asking permission of owners to pet their dog; and owners not implementing the appropriate safeguards in their homes and yards to protect the public can lead to an increase in dog bites occurring.
Owning a dog is a privilege and a responsible owner knows the risks that come along with it. Owner liability is a fact of life as outlined in Act 73 of 1939: Liability of Owner for Dog Bite.
Courtesy of the Michigan State University of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center __________________________________________________
LIABILITY OF OWNER FOR DOG BITE
(Act 73 of 1939)
287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.
Sec. 1. (1) If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
(2) A person is lawfully on the private property of the owner of the dog within the meaning of this act if the person is on the owner’s property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or if the person is on the owner’s property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property unless said person has gained lawful entry upon the premises for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act.
History: 1939, Act 73, Imd. Eff. May 4, 1939;–CL 1948, 287.351;–Am. 1988, Act 142, Eff. Mar. 30, 1989.
Avoid a bite to begin with!
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who is tethered or confined behind a fence or in a car.
- If you are expecting visitors or deliveries, think ahead and put your dog behind a barrier to avoid stressing your dog and to keep people safe on your property.
- Always ask an owner’s permission before getting in a dog’s space to pet him.
- Allow the dog to approach and sniff you first. Avoid reaching toward or over the dog.
- Never try to outrun a dog – if you do you are only playing into their instinct to chase.
- Do not disturb a dog while it is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies.
- Unfamiliar dogs do not automatically trust you even through you have the best intentions. Dogs are not mind readers and your actions could be misinterpreted.
If you think a dog may attack you “Be a Tree”
Most dogs do not intend to scare or bite people, but they do like to investigate new people. Most dogs will chase a person who runs and will get more and more excited the more the person runs. Shouting or screaming is also exciting to dogs and can frighten some dogs. Being still and quiet is the best way to show a dog that you mean no harm and that you are not going to play with him or threaten him.
How to “Be a Tree”
- Protect your “branches”. Fold your hands in front of you.
- Grow your “roots”. Look down at your toes. You can still see the dog out of your peripheral vision.
- Count in your head to the highest number you know and then start back at 1 again until the dog goes away or help comes.
Be a tree in any of these situations:
- A strange dog comes near you (even if he seems friendly).
- Any dog is making you feel uncomfortable, worried or scared.
- A dog is chasing you.
- A dog is acting too frisky or excited.
What to do after a bite happens:
- Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- Contact your doctor for additional care.
- Report the bite to your local animal control. If the dog was stray, share information on the location of the incident, what the dog looked like and what direction he went. If this was a known dog owned by someone in the area report the name of the owner and where they live.
Look for upcoming articles that discuss:
- Owner responsibility as it relates to leash laws and registration
- Etiquette concerning D.I.N.O.S. Dogs In Need of Space
- Explore the body language of dogs
- How to evaluate public dog parks
- Resources for baby and toddler safety