Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What to do if You Are Attacked by a Dog: Advice from a Lawyer

We recently discovered the blog of New York lawyer James Reed of Ziff Law, which has some great advice for dog bite victims that we wanted to share.

If you have become a victim of a dog attack, there are some steps that you should take.
  • First, seek medical attention. Whether you call 911 or go to the hospital on your own, DO NOT WAIT.
  • Second, call the police or animal control as soon as possible to let them know that you were attacked. It is especially important to call the police or animal control quickly when the dog is loose or you do not know who it belongs to; a prompt call may allow them to find the dog. Unfortunately, without the dog or knowledge of who owns dog, treatment may be more difficult for you, others may be in danger of similar injury and future legal proceedings may be impossible.
  • Third, when speaking with police, animal control and medical providers, ask for documentation. If no documentation is available at the time, ask for report numbers or names of the individual you are talking to. Fourth, document your injuries, medical visits and experiences through pictures and notes. This will help you remember what you’ve gone through as a result of this injury and may be of help in future legal proceedings.
  • Finally, do not hesitate to contact an attorney that specializes in this type of case. Most clients feel that having someone going through the process with them is immensely helpful.
In a recent post Mr. Reed explains what happens in the legal system and what the difference is between a dangerous dog proceeding and a civil case. He summarizes this as follows:

The dangerous dog proceeding and the civil case have different effects on the parties involved.  There are a few main differences:
  1. A dangerous dog proceeding may impose for some restrictions on the attacking dog, e.g., requiring a leash, muzzle or training and, in extreme cases, euthanasia; a civil case cannot impose restrictions on the attacking pet.
  2. A civil case allows for more compensation for a dog attack; a dangerous dog proceeding allows only costs to be covered.
Surprisingly, there is also some overlap between dangerous dog proceedings and civil cases. A finding of a dog as dangerous can be helpful in establishing vicious propensities of the dog in a civil case.

Can I proceed with both? It is possible to proceed with both. In fact, many people often find it satisfying to proceed with both because they are able to be involved in protecting others from a similar experience by helping to impose controls on the attacking pet as well as making sure they, as a victim, are fully compensated for their injuries and losses.
This article has been written to give you a very basic idea of what to do if you have been a victim of a dog attack.  Being such can be a very traumatic and difficult experience.
For more information, here are links to Mr Reed's blog posts for dog bite victims:

“Dangerous Dog Law in New York State: The Basics Explained by NY Dog Attack Lawyer”

“Vicious Propensities: Dog Owners’ Liability and Responsibility to Spot Warning Signs of Attack”

“More About Dangerous Dogs: What to Do if You are a Victim of a Dog Attack”

For more information about what to do after a dog bite please visit the Doggone Safe website at: http://doggonesafe.com/dog_bite_victim_support


  1. my son was bitten by a dog on april 18, 2013. I need to know what actions can or should I take. the animal control has already been out and have the dog. what do I do next

  2. my 6 year old son was attacked by a dog that is not up to date on shots, he was at his babysitters when he went a few places down in the trailer park to play with other kids and the dog that lives next to that place was chained but when all the kids where running my son wasnt paying attention to whos yard he was in and the dog that was chained attacked him. Multiple bites to the back of the head side of his neck and his ear he had to get staples in the back of his head. His doc is talking about referring him to a plastic surgeon. I have called a few different lawyers and still have not gotten a call back. I dont know what else to do!

  3. I was staying with a family member for a month who lived in another state. She had a dog who was untrained and not well behaved, which was obnoxious, but they swore he was a sweet dog and that's why they kept him. My ten month old son went to hug the dog, which he did many times before, and the dog bit him on the head, leaving one puncture wound and three bumps and scrapes. My son cried for a minute and then fainted, and I rushed him to the hospital, calling 911 on the way. He was observed for a while, and released with antibiotics and a possible course of rabies vaccines. I talked to other family members who informed us that the dog had a vicious past, and should have been euthanized long before... We left their home as quickly as possible, but on not-so-good terms, and later, another family member (who is not responsible for the dog) offered to help with the hospital expenses. I'm not sure if I should contact a lawyer, but I don't know if my family should be liable, if they should, or if the costs should be split. And I don't know how to go about the next step, either, whatever it is.