Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics reports a 3x increase in children seeking care for dog bite injuries at a Colorado hospital during the pandemic. The researchers noted that this trend likely spread beyond this one hospital.
In January 2019, the hospital reported 3 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits. Over April and May of 2019, the rate increased. In July 2019, the rate reached a peak of 7 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits.
Fast forward to January 2020, which also saw 3 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits – same as the previous January. By May 2020, there were about 13 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits. Dog bite injuries continued to rise after Colorado lifted its stay-at-home order that April.
A New York Times article attributed the rise in part to so-called pandemic puppies. Owners may not have planned to bring these pets home during 2020. In some cases, these were complete impulse decisions. Who expected to be home this long? Because of that, owners may not have been prepared to train and care for puppies. There was also decreased access to dog trainers.
Children had increased exposure to puppies during those shelter in place days. Children usually have more contact with dogs when finish school for the summer. Here, children began spending more time with dogs in March of 2020. As children stayed home, parents struggled to balance home-schooling and their own jobs and may not have been supervising children near dogs as closely.
Dog bites are traumatic and can be life-threatening for young children. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our personal injury lawyers know no one completely realizes how vicious a dog can be when it attacks. Training a dog is one step to help prevent a dog attack. Just as important is keeping a dog on a leash at all times. You never know what may trigger your dog to bite or attack. Even well behaved and calm dogs have unexpectedly attacked young children. One incident can be all it takes to change a child’s life forever.
A 2020 study shows just how important it is for parents or relatives to factor in a child’s age when bringing home a dog. Children under 11 were three times more likely than older children to be admitted to the hospital, according to the study, which was authored by a physician at UMass Memorial Medical School in Worcester. Younger children were also more likely to be admitted to the hospital.
Children age 1 through 10 were more likely to suffer open wounds to the head, neck and lower body. The study reviewed more than 6,300 hospital admissions from the Kids’ Inpatient Database during 2006, 2009 and 2012. One third of the patients had injuries so severe they required surgery.
Tips to Keep a Safe Dog After COVID-19
If you have a dog, we suggest the following tips to protect your children, family and neighbors from a dog bite injury:
- Always keep your dog leashed and under control when you are outside your home.
- Continue to limit guests to your home as COVID-19 restrictions get lifted.
- Secure your dog when guests come over.
- Do not leave your dog alone with your children or other children.
- Be aware that younger children have a higher likelihood of injury to their neck or head.
- Also be aware that many children suffer dog bites from their family pet or from pets they know well.
- Train your dog and socialize them.
- Consult your veterinarian or a dog trainer.
- Walk your dog outside on a leash a few times a day so it can get some exercise.
- Give your dog some personal attention each day.
- Recognize that dogs may be more likely to bite when they are gathering or protecting belongings. This is called “resource guarding.”
- Build a fence.
If you brought home a pandemic puppy, you have some planning to do since your dog has limited exposure to other people. Keep your dog on a leash when outside or when you have guests over. With all dogs, it is critical to ease your dog back into the social experience of being around guests at your home, including close friends and extended family members.
Building a fence in your backyard may also be a good spring project. A fence keeps your dog out of sight from your neighbors and their children. When children see a dog, they are more likely to want to approach and pet it. But as a dog owner, you must remember it’s devastating for a child to suffer a dog bite injury. The law on liability is also strict in Massachusetts. You can be held liable if your dog bites a young child, even if the child went onto your property without permission. The law recognizes that young children may not realize they are stepping toward danger. Your dog doesn’t have to have a history of dog bites or attacks for you to be held liable.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Dog Bite Attorneys
If you have been injured by a dog or want to learn more about Massachusetts law concerning a dog owner’s responsibilities, visit our website. Each of our partners has more than 30 years of experience representing children and others injured by dog bites and dog attacks. We are here to advise you on your rights for seeking compensation for your child or yourself.
For a free legal consultation, contact our dog bite lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
No one wants to think about the potential dangers of dogs. This is because many people own a dog or call themselves dog lovers. But the reality is dogs can be a public health risk when left unsupervised or when owners make poor decisions. Or when they interact too closely with children. Now, during the summer months, is the time to consider your family’s safety.
Dog bites and attacks caused severe injuries and deaths across the United States and here in Massachusetts last year. In May 2019, a 14-year-old boy was killed in a dog bite attack in Dighton. He was found laying dead at a property where he was caring for dogs without supervision. There were 4 dogs in the area where his body was found and 7 other dogs on the property, according to a NBC Boston report. The dogs were reportedly not licensed in Dighton.
The boy’s grandmother had dropped him off on the large property to tend to the dogs, as she had for several months, while the dogs’ owner was away in Boston, according to the Sun Chronicle newspaper. The grandmother waited in the car and grew concerned when the boy did not return. A neighbor found the boy dead and police were called. The Bristol County District Attorney’s office investigated but declined to criminally charge the dogs’ owner.
Then, the state of Michigan lost two young children within a few months. In August 2019, three pit bulls savagely attacked a 9-year-old girl in Detroit as she rode her bike in an alley near her home, according to a local news report. The girl died from multiple injuries, despite a neighbor’s attempt to help, by shooting and killing one of the dogs. The owner of the dogs was arrested, ultimately charged with second-degree murder.
Prosecutors alleged the owner knew the dogs “were dangerous, loose and unsecured” in the backyard of his home, according to the news coverage. He allegedly went to a nearby store and the dogs broke free from the yard while he was away. The initial investigation found the fencing around the home was damaged and the garage door had also been left open.
In October, another child was attacked just a few miles away in Hazel Park, Michigan. This time, the 4-year-old boy was killed by a pit bull right in his own home. His family had been pet sitting for a friend.
“A kind gesture to help a friend in a time of need, for a dog that was said to have never shown aggressive behaviors has turned into a horrifying loss for our family,” the family said in a statement.
The attack only ended when police shot the dog with a taser gun and it fled. The boy was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The boy’s mother had fought to save her son, stabbing the dog with a knife. She was later transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
A Dog Owner’s Legal Responsibilities in Massachusetts
To dog owners, we urge you to tend to your responsibilities. Follow your community’s local leash laws and registration requirements.
Restrain and supervise your dog at all times. In Massachusetts, the owner or keeper of a dog can be held financially responsible when their animal attacks someone. Under Massachusetts law, the injured person may seek compensation through your Massachusetts homeowner’s insurance policy. There is strict liability when a dog causes injuries, scarring or wrongful death. One does not have to prove the dog had a history of being dangerous or vicious.
Adults have a responsibility not to trespass or torment a dog at the time of the attack. But dog owners can be held liable when young children step onto their property without invitation, then are attacked. This is a very important point for dog owners to understand.
Homeowners can prevent these injuries by inspecting their home and property. Consider the age of your neighbors’ children. In most cases, the best investment you can make is strong fencing which keeps your dog contained and stops children before they grow interested in watching your dog.
To parents and neighbors, never underestimate the risk of dogs. Dog bites and attacks are more common than most people realize, even when you and your children know the dog. In fact, 77 percent of dog bites cause injury to their owners and children, a relative or family friends, according to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Dogs may be well behaved. Owners can feed and exercise them regularly. Yet they can still be unpredictable or become stressed and attack without warning. They are not a reliable combination with young children, no matter how dog-friendly their owner says they are.
We encourage you to exercise caution around dogs. If you are a parent, keep your children away from dogs. You have the choice when you visit friends or family members who own dogs. These are social visits and letting your child approach a dog while you talk is dangerous, even if they are with another person or older child. You want to introduce your child to dogs when they are older, taking time to consult your children’s pediatrician and school. You want to be right there with your child, not watching them from across a yard.
Watch Your Neighborhood
The risk for dog bites typically rises in the summer, with the warm weather and the start of school vacation. This year, Covid-19 has changed everything in Massachusetts. Your neighbors may be spending even more time at home. You may see their dogs out more, sometimes without supervision. You may also see some new dogs.
Call your local animal control officer if you are concerned about an unsupervised dog. Your neighbors have a responsibility to follow leash laws and these are in place to prevent injuries. Another reason is some of these dogs may also be abandoned, neglected or starved. They need special attention before they contract and spread rabies, or attack.
Facts About Dog Bite Injuries
- From 2005 to 2018, 471 Americans were killed by dog bites, according to DogBite.org, a victim’s group.
- Pit bulls caused more than 65 percent of fatal dog bites and attacks, according to the group.
- Children age 5 to 9 are the most frequent victims of dog bites and attacks, according to a WBUR article.
- Dogs are most likely to bite children in the face, neck and head, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg reports.
Seeking Medical Treatment After Dog Bites and Attacks
Most dog bites and attacks are serious. Call 911 and wait for emergency medical services. Even if you or your child have only suffered a minor wound, we encourage you to still call your pediatrician or doctor. Ask to be treated right away. This is critical because not all dogs are vaccinated.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Dog Bite Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck has more than 100 years combined experience representing victims of dog bites and attacks in Boston and across Massachusetts. If you or your child has been injured, you may have the right to pursue financial compensation for your recovery. You may be entitled to seek damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other financial losses. This compensation can also pay for counseling for emotional distress.
Learn your legal rights. Contact our Massachusetts dog bite attorneys for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.