Dogs have become the most popular pet in the United States. Americans share their homes with nearly 90 million dogs nationwide, and more than 38% of U.S. households own at least one. The percentages in the Northeast are a bit lower: 29% of households in Massachusetts and just 24% in New Hampshire include dogs. Still, the numbers aren’t small. That’s well over 100,000 dogs in New Hampshire, and more than 700,000 in Massachusetts.
While dogs can make great companions and many are friendly with strangers, they are also animals with sharp teeth, strong jaws, and sometimes unpredictable natures. While most people understand that it’s important to exercise caution with unfamiliar dogs, not everyone knows how to safely interact with unknown dogs. And, many people wrongly assume that a family dog or neighborhood dog they know well presents no threat.
Dangerous Mistakes with Strange Dogs
While unexpected animal attacks do happen, most dog bite situations are avoidable. Some of the most common mistakes people make when interacting with an unknown dog include:
- Reaching directly for the dog
- Intruding on property or near people the dog may be protective of
- Running and screaming, which can inspire the dog to chase
- Touching or startling a dog that is sleeping
- Approaching a dog that is eating
- Approaching a dog’s puppies
- Getting in the dog’s face
- Following a dog that gets up and moves away when approached or petted
When encountering an unfamiliar dog, it is best to stay still and let the dog approach you or wander off. Running or reaching toward the dog may be interpreted as aggression. A still person with arms at his or her sides is generally of little interest to the dog, and does not appear threatening.
Safe Handling of Family Pets
While it’s particularly important to avoid the mistakes listed above when you don’t know what to expect from a dog, it’s important to note that dogs you know and love can still be dangerous. In fact, most of the more than 4.5 million dog bites each year are inflicted by the family dog or a friend or neighbor’s dog.
Children are at particular risk from familiar dogs, in part because they fail to read warning signs. Even with a familiar, friendly dog, one should always avoid behaviors perceived as aggressive, such as making the dog feel cornered or threatened, persisting in contact when the dog resists, startling the dog, and interfering with feeding.
Dog Bite Injuries
Fortunately, most dog bites aren’t serious. However, about 750,000 dog bites each year require medical attention, and some can be quite serious. Tens of thousands of cosmetic surgical procedures are performed each year as the result of dog bites, and occasionally dog attacks are fatal. With limited exceptions, both Massachusetts and New Hampshire hold dog owners responsible for harm caused when their dogs bite or otherwise attack.
If you or your child has been injured by someone else’s dog and you have incurred medical expenses and other damages as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. A free consultation with an experienced local dog bite attorney is the quickest, most reliable way to gather information about your rights and options. To get started right now, just call The Broderick Law Firm, LLC at 978-459-3085 or fill out this contact form to schedule a free consultation.