Dog Bites and Children

For many children, their best childhood memories involve a dog. This is perhaps unsurprising as an estimated 70 to 80 million U.S. households have a dog, according to the ASPCA.

However, dogs also sometimes bite, and a significant number of their victims are children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 4.5 million people are bitten every year and of these, nearly 900,000 require emergency medical attention. About half of all these injuries are to children – particularly kids under the age of 6.

The Fort Lauderdale child dog bite injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm understand that most of these incidents involve a dog the child knows – either one owned by a family member of friend or even possibly the family pet.

Our goal is not necessarily to punish the dog owner, but to ensure the child and his or her family receives adequate compensation for their injuries – which are often severe for smaller children. We can help families to recover losses for:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Lost wages (of parent due to child’s injuries and treatments)
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • Permanent scarring
  • Long-term medical effects/ ailments
  • Treatment for emotional trauma

F.S. 767.04 sets forth strict liability for dog owners whose pets cause injury to others. There are even special provisions for children. Specifically, the law says that owners can be responsible for injury caused by their dog to any person who is in a public place or who is lawfully in a private place – including the dog owner’s home. This liability applies regardless of whether the dog had ever bitten anyone before and it doesn’t matter whether the owner had any knowledge of the canine’s past viciousness.

As far as children are concerned, dog owners can be liable for injuries to children under the age of 6, regardless of whether they were trespassing or in some cases, regardless of whether they had in some way provoked the dog. Children that young don’t understand the consequences of certain actions around a dog, and it’s up to the dog’s owner to use reasonable care to make sure the dog is properly secured and that interactions with children are properly supervised.

Why Dogs Bite Children

Dogs bite children for a myriad of reasons. However, there is strong evidence to suggest dog owners aren’t educated about the possible risks.

A 2008 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) revealed that of more than 800 dog owners surveyed, there was an overall lack of knowledge regarding dog behavior and safety practices when it came to child-dog interactions. Women were more knowledgeable than man, particularly women who were mothers, but even still, many dog owners had only limited understanding of the risk factors that increase the chances of a dog biting a child. This tells us there is much work to be done in terms of educating dog owners about canine behavior, including body language, social signals, resource-guarding, self-defense and the potential for bites inflicted on infants and children.

Another study published in the journal Injury Prevention analyzed the behavior of more than 40 breeds of dogs involved in more than 100 bite cases over a four-year period. What the veterinary behavioral clinic researchers found were a number of behavior patterns that included:

  • Territorial Behavior. These cases most frequently involved children under 6, and usually when the dog felt the child was threatening to take toys or food. When the victim was an older child, the facts suggested the dog felt the child was intruding on his or her territory. A particular risk factor for bites was interference while eating – especially if it was a child the dog did not know/ was not familiar with.
  • Anxiety. In these cases, the facts seemed to indicate the dog bit because it was anxious about something, whether that was separation stress, some sudden or persistent scary noise (i.e., fireworks or thunderstorms) or unpredictable movements by children.
  • Pain/ Other Medical Issue. Although adults generally know not to bother or harass a dog that is in pain, children often are not able to discern when the dog is hurting. Yet this appears to be a big factor in dogs biting children. In fact, half of the dogs in the cases analyzed by Injury Prevention researchers had some serious health problems involving their eyes, kidney, liver, bones or skin.
When Are Children Most in Danger?

Our dog bite injury lawyers hesitate to assert that any one breed is inherently more dangerous than another to children because this suggests dog owners might be able to let their guard down with other breeds. We have learned in our experience that any dog has the potential to bite, attack and cause serious injury to children.

However, some research does suggest certain breeds are overrepresented in serious child injuries from dog bites. Other informative patterns emerged as well in ongoing research.

For example, one study published in the journal Plastic Reconstructive Surgery by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealed:

  • Of 551 patients ages 5 months to 18 years treated for serious dog bite injuries at one hospital over the course of 5 years, most were male.
  • Dog bite injuries most commonly occurred in June and July.
  • The majority of children bitten were between the ages of 6 and 12 (51 percent), followed by preschoolers, ages 2 to 5 (24 percent). Infants under 1 year accounted for 4.5 percent of all cases, while teens 13 to 18 accounted for 20 percent.
  • Most infants and preschoolers suffered facial injuries, while older children were more likely to sustain injury to their extremities.
  • Most common breeds involved were: Pit bulls (51 percent), Rottweilers (9 percent) and mixed breeds of those two (6 percent).

Despite the fact that pediatric dog bites are preventable, they continue to happen. When they do, our Fort Lauderdale child dog bite injury lawyers are here to help.

Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.